Study objectives: Previous studies found that sleep loss can suppress the expression of genes implicated in myelination and can have adverse effects on oligodendrocyte precursor cells. On the other hand, sleep may favor myelination by promoting the expression of genes involved in its formation and maintenance. Albeit limited, these results suggest that sleep loss can have detrimental effects on the formation and maintenance of myelin.
Methods: Here, we tested this hypothesis by evaluating ultrastructural modifications of myelin in two brain regions (corpus callosum and lateral olfactory tract) of mice exposed to different periods of sleep loss, from a few hours of sleep deprivation to ~5 days of chronic sleep restriction. In addition, we measured the internodal length-the distance between consecutive nodes of Ranvier along the axon-and plasma corticosterone levels.
Results: We find that g-ratio-the ratio of the diameter of the axon itself to the outer diameter of the myelinated fiber-increases after chronic sleep loss. This effect is mediated by a reduction in myelin thickness and is not associated with changes in the internodal length. Relative to sleep, plasma corticosterone levels increase after acute sleep deprivation, but show only a trend to increase after chronic sleep loss.
Conclusions: Chronic sleep loss may negatively affect myelin.