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Neuroscience. 2007 Aug 10;148(1):325-33. Epub 2007 Jul 16.

Hippocampal neurogenesis is reduced by sleep fragmentation in the adult rat.

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


The adult hippocampal dentate gyrus (DG) is a site of continuing neurogenesis. This process is influenced by a variety of physiological and experiential stimuli including total sleep deprivation (TSD). In humans, sleep fragmentation (SF) is a more common sleep condition than TSD. SF is associated with several prevalent diseases. We assessed a hypothesis that SF would suppress adult neurogenesis in the DG of the adult rat. An intermittent treadmill system was used; the treadmill was on for 3 s and off for 30 s (SF). For sleep fragmentation control (SFC), the treadmill was on for 15 min and off for 150 min. SF was conducted for three durations: 1, 4 and 7 days. To label proliferating cells, the thymidine analog, 5-bromo-2-deoxyuridine (BrdU), was injected 2 h prior to the end of each experiment. Expression of the intrinsic proliferative marker, Ki67, was also studied. SF rats exhibited an increased number of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep bouts with no change in the percent of time spent in this stage. The numbers of both BrdU-positive cells and Ki67-positive cells were reduced by approximately 70% (P<0.05) in the SF groups after 4 and 7 days of experimental conditions whereas no differences were observed after 1 day. In a second experiment, we found that the percentage of new cells expressing a neuronal phenotype 3 weeks after BrdU administration was lower in the SF in comparison with the SFC group for all three durations of SF. We also examined the effects of SF on proliferation in adrenalectomized (ADX) animals, with basal corticosterone replacement. ADX SF animals exhibited a 55% reduction in the number of BrdU-positive cells when compared with ADX SFC. Thus, elevated glucocorticoids do not account for most of the reduction in cell proliferation induced by the SF procedure, although a small contribution of stress is not excluded. The results show that sustained SF induced marked reduction in hippocampal neurogenesis.

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