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J Neurosci. 2004 Jun 9;24(23):5410-9.

Locus ceruleus control of state-dependent gene expression.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53719, USA.


Wakefulness and sleep are accompanied by changes in behavior and neural activity, as well as by the upregulation of different functional categories of genes. However, the mechanisms responsible for such state-dependent changes in gene expression are unknown. Here we investigate to what extent state-dependent changes in gene expression depend on the central noradrenergic (NA) system, which is active in wakefulness and reduces its firing during sleep. We measured the levels of approximately 5000 transcripts expressed in the cerebral cortex of control rats and in rats pretreated with DSP-4 [N-(2-chloroethyl)-N-ethyl-2-bromobenzylamine], a neurotoxin that removes the noradrenergic innervation of the cortex. We found that NA depletion reduces the expression of approximately 20% of known wakefulness-related transcripts. Most of these transcripts are involved in synaptic plasticity and in the cellular response to stress. In contrast, NA depletion increased the expression of the sleep-related gene encoding the translation elongation factor 2. These results indicate that the activity of the central NA system during wakefulness modulates neuronal transcription to favor synaptic potentiation and counteract cellular stress, whereas its inactivity during sleep may play a permissive role to enhance brain protein synthesis.

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