Hypothalamic circuitry underlying stress-induced insomnia and peripheral immunosuppression

Sci Adv. 2020 Sep 9;6(37):eabc2590. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abc2590. Print 2020 Sep.


The neural substrates of insomnia/hyperarousal induced by stress remain unknown. Here, we show that restraint stress leads to hyperarousal associated with strong activation of corticotropin-releasing hormone neurons in the paraventricular nucleus of hypothalamus (CRHPVN) and hypocretin neurons in the lateral hypothalamus (HcrtLH). CRHPVN neurons directly innervate HcrtLH neurons, and optogenetic stimulation of LH-projecting CRHPVN neurons elicits hyperarousal. CRISPR-Cas9-mediated knockdown of the crh gene in CRHPVN neurons abolishes hyperarousal induced by stimulating LH-projecting CRHPVN neurons. Genetic ablation of Hcrt neurons or crh gene knockdown significantly counteracts restraint stress-induced hyperarousal. Single-cell mass cytometry by time of flight (CyTOF) revealed extensive changes to immune cell distribution and functional responses in peripheral blood during hyperarousal upon optogenetic stimulation of CRHPVN neurons simulating stress-induced insomnia. Our findings suggest both central and peripheral systems are synergistically engaged in the response to stress via CRHPVN circuitry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural