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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Sleep Regulation by Neurotensinergic Neurons in a Thalamo-Amygdala Circuit.

  • Author(s): Ma, Chenyan
  • Zhong, Peng
  • Liu, Danqian
  • Barger, Zeke Katsh
  • Zhou, Li
  • Chang, Wei-Cheng
  • Kim, Brian
  • Dan, Yang
  • et al.

A crucial step in understanding the sleep-control mechanism is to identify sleep neurons. Through systematic anatomical screening followed by functional testing, we identified two sleep-promoting neuronal populations along a thalamo-amygdala pathway, both expressing neurotensin (NTS). Rabies-mediated monosynaptic retrograde tracing identified the central nucleus of amygdala (CeA) as a major source of GABAergic inputs to multiple wake-promoting populations; gene profiling revealed NTS as a prominent marker for these CeA neurons. Optogenetic activation and inactivation of NTS-expressing CeA neurons promoted and suppressed non-REM (NREM) sleep, respectively, and optrode recording showed they are sleep active. Further tracing showed that CeA GABAergic NTS neurons are innervated by glutamatergic NTS neurons in a posterior thalamic region, which also promote NREM sleep. CRISPR/Cas9-mediated NTS knockdown in either the thalamic or CeA neurons greatly reduced their sleep-promoting effect. These results reveal a novel thalamo-amygdala circuit for sleep generation in which NTS signaling is essential for both the upstream glutamatergic and downstream GABAergic neurons.

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