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Eur J Neurosci. 2006 Jun;23(12):3284-96.

Sleep-active neurons in the preoptic area project to the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus and perifornical lateral hypothalamus.

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Research Service 151A3, V.A. Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, 16111 Plummer Street, North Hills, CA 91343, USA.


The lamina terminalis consists of the organum vasculosum of the lamina terminalis (OVLT), median preoptic nucleus (MnPO) and subfornical organ. The MnPO and ventrolateral preoptic area (vlPOA) are known to contain high densities of neurons that are sleep active. The prevalence of sleep-active neurons in the OVLT and subfornical organ is unknown. The vlPOA and subdivisions of the lamina terminalis project to hypothalamic regions involved in the control of behavioral, electrographic or autonomic arousal, including the lateral hypothalamic area (LHA) and paraventricular nucleus (PVN). The extent to which projection neurons are active during sleep is unknown. We quantified c-Fos protein immunoreactivity (IR) in the lamina terminalis and vlPOA in sleeping and awake rats that received injections of retrograde tracer into either the LHA or PVN. Fos IR was also examined in lamina terminalis neurons following tracer injections into the vlPOA. Significantly more projection neurons from the MnPO, OVLT and vlPOA to the LHA were Fos-immunoreactive in sleeping vs. awake animals. Waking Fos IR was more prevalent in lamina terminalis neurons projecting to the PVN although a subset of MnPO projection neurons in sleeping rats was Fos-immunoreactive. Almost 50% of vlPOA-PVN projection neurons expressed Fos IR during sleep, compared with 3% during waking. Significantly more neurons in the OVLT and MnPO projecting to the vlPOA were Fos-immunoreactive in sleeping vs. awake rats. Inhibition of LHA and PVN neurons arising from OVLT, MnPO and vlPOA neurons may contribute to suppression of behavioral, electroencephalographic and sympathetic nervous system activation during sleep.

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