Study objectives: The present study investigated the function of Hypocretin (Hcrt or Orexin/OX) receptor antagonists in sleep modulation and memory function with optical methods in transgenic mice.
Methods: We used Hcrt-IRES-Cre knock-in mice and AAV vectors expressing channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) to render Hcrt neurons sensitive to blue light stimulation. We optogenetically stimulated Hcrt neurons and measured latencies to wakefulness in the presence or absence of OX1/2R antagonists and Zolpidem. We also examined endogenous Hcrt neuronal activity with fiber photometry. Changes in memory after optogenetic sleep disruption were evaluated by the novel object recognition test (NOR) and compared for groups treated with vehicle, OX1/2R antagonists, or Zolpidem. We also analyzed electroencephalogram (EEG) power spectra of wakefulness, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and non-REM (NREM) sleep following the injections of vehicle, OX1/2R antagonists, and Zolpidem in young adult mice.
Results: Acute optogenetic stimulation of Hcrt neurons at different frequencies resulted in wakefulness. Treatment with dual OX1/2R antagonists (DORAs) DORA12 and MK6096, as well as selective OX2R antagonist MK1064 and Zolpidem, but not selective OX1R antagonist 1SORA1, significantly reduced the bout length of optogenetic stimulation-evoked wakefulness episode. Fiber photometry recordings of GCaMP6f signals showed that Hcrt neurons are active during wakefulness, even in the presence of OXR antagonists. Treatment with dual OX1/2R antagonists improved memory function despite optogenetic sleep fragmentation caused impaired memory function in a NOR test.
Conclusions: Our results show DORAs and selective OX2R antagonists stabilize sleep and improve sleep-dependent cognitive processes even when challenged by optogenetic stimulation mimicking highly arousing stimuli.