Regulation of hippocampal dendritic spines following sleep deprivation

J Comp Neurol. 2020 Feb 15;528(3):380-388. doi: 10.1002/cne.24764. Epub 2019 Sep 9.


Accumulating evidence supports the role of sleep in synaptic plasticity and memory consolidation. One line of investigation, the synaptic homeostasis hypothesis, has emphasized the increase in synaptic strength during waking, and compensatory downsizing of (presumably less frequently used) synapses during sleep. Conversely, other studies have reported downsizing and loss of dendritic spines following sleep deprivation. We wanted to determine the effect of sleep deprivation on dendritic spines of hippocampal CA1 neurons using genetic methods for fluorescent labeling of dendritic spines. Male Vglut2-Cre mice were injected with an AAV-DIO-ChR2-mCherry reporter in CA1 hippocampus. Gentle handling was used to sleep deprive mice for 5 hr, from lights on (7 am) to 12 noon. Control and sleep-deprived mice were euthanized at 12 noon and processed for quantification of dendritic spines. We used confocal microscope imaging and three-dimensional (3D) analysis to quantify thin, mushroom, and stubby spines from CA1 dendrites, distinguishing between branch segments. We observed significantly greater density of spines in CA1 of sleep-deprived mice, driven primarily by greater numbers of thin spines, and significantly larger spine volume and head diameter. Branch and region-specific analysis revealed that spine volume was greater in primary dendrites of apical and basal segments, along with proximal segments on both apical and basal dendrites, and spine density was increased in secondary branches and distal segments on apical dendrites following sleep deprivation. Our 3D quantification suggests sleep contributes to region- and branch-specific synaptic downscaling in the hippocampus, supporting the theory of broad but selective synaptic downscaling during sleep.

Keywords: RRID: IMSR_JAX:016963; RRID:Addgene_47636; dendritic spines; hippocampus; memory consolidation; sleep.