The present study was conducted to determine the effects of REM sleep deprivation on the levels of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) and norepinephrine transporter (NET) mRNA in the locus coeruleus (LC) of rats. The animals were deprived of REM sleep for 1, 3 or 5 days, then killed and changes in the mRNA levels were determined using in situ hybridization. The levels of both TH and NET mRNA increased in animals deprived of REM sleep for 3 days or longer whereas no change in these messages were observed in the LC of control animals. REM sleep deprivation has been used as a mode of treatment for major depression. Others have shown that treatment with tricyclic antidepressants also results in increased levels of TH and NET mRNA in LC. Our results suggest that the antidepressant effect of REM sleep deprivation and tricyclic antidepressants may share similar molecular changes in the norepinephrine system.