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Hypocretinergic and non-hypocretinergic projections from the hypothalamus to the REM sleep executive area of the pons

Torterolo, P;Sampogna, S;Chase, MH;

Within the postero-lateral hypothalamus neurons that utilize hypocretin or melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) as neuromodulators are co-distributed. These neurons have been involved in the control of behavioral states, and a deficit in the hypocretinergic system is the pathogenic basis of narcolepsy with cataplexy. In this report, utilizing immunohistochemistry and retrograde tracing techniques, we examined the hypocretinergic innervation of the nucleus pontis oralis (NPO), which is the executive site that is responsible for the generation of REM sleep in the cat. The retrograde tracer cholera toxin subunit b (CTb) was administered in pontine regions where carbachol microinjections induced REM sleep. Utilizing immunohistochemical techniques, we found that approximately 1% of hypocretinergic neurons in the tuberal area of the hypothalamus project to the NPO. In addition, approximately 6% of all CTb+ neurons in this region were hypocretinergic. The hypocretinergic innervation of the NPO was also compared with the innervation of the same site by MCH-containing neurons. More than three times as many MCHergic neurons were found to project to the NPO compared with hypocretinergic cells; both neuronal types exhibited bilateral projections. We also identified a group of non-hypocretinergic non-MCHergic neuronal group of neurons that were intermingled with both hypocretinergic and MCHergic neurons that also projected to this same brainstem region. These neurons were grater in number that either hypocretin or MCH-containing neurons; their soma size was also smaller and their projections were mainly ipsilateral. The present anatomical data suggest that hypocretinergic, MCHergic and an unidentified companion group of neurons of the postero-lateral hypothalamus participate in the regulation of the neuronal activity of NPO neurons, and therefore, are likely to participate in the control of wakefulness and REM sleep.