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Prog Brain Res. 2011;193:39-47. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-53839-0.00003-X.

Involvement of cytokines in slow wave sleep.

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Sleep and Performance Research Center, Washington State University, Spokane, WA, USA.


Cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) and interleukin-1 beta (IL1β) play a role in sleep regulation in health and disease. TNFα or IL1β injection enhances non-rapid eye movement sleep. Inhibition of TNFα or IL1β reduces spontaneous sleep. Mice lacking TNFα or IL1β receptors sleep less. In normal humans and in multiple disease states, plasma levels of TNFα covary with EEG slow wave activity (SWA) and sleep propensity. Many of the symptoms induced by sleep loss, for example, sleepiness, fatigue, poor cognition, enhanced sensitivity to pain, are elicited by injection of exogenous TNFα or IL1β. IL1β or TNFα applied unilaterally to the surface of the cortex induces state-dependent enhancement of EEG SWA ipsilaterally, suggesting greater regional sleep intensity. Interventions such as unilateral somatosensory stimulation enhance localized sleep EEG SWA, blood flow, and somatosensory cortical expression of IL1β and TNFα. State oscillations occur within cortical columns. One such state shares properties with whole animal sleep in that it is dependent on prior cellular activity, shows homeostasis, and is induced by TNFα. Extracellular ATP released during neuro- and gliotransmission enhances cytokine release via purine type 2 receptors. An ATP agonist enhances sleep, while ATP antagonists inhibit sleep. Mice lacking the P2X7 receptor have attenuated sleep rebound responses after sleep loss. TNFα and IL1β alter neuron sensitivity by changing neuromodulator/neurotransmitter receptor expression, allowing the neuron to scale its activity to the presynaptic neurons. TNFα's role in synaptic scaling is well characterized. Because the sensitivity of the postsynaptic neuron is changed, the same input will result in a different network output signal and this is a state change. The top-down paradigm of sleep regulation requires intentional action from sleep/wake regulatory brain circuits to initiate whole-organism sleep. This raises unresolved questions as to how such purposeful action might itself be initiated. In the new paradigm, sleep is initiated within networks and local sleep is a direct consequence of prior local cell activity. Whole-organism sleep is a bottom-up, self-organizing, and emergent property of the collective states of networks throughout the brain.

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