Region-specific increases in FosB/ΔFosB immunoreactivity in the rat brain in response to chronic sleep restriction

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Using a rat model of chronic sleep restriction (CSR) featuring periodic sleep deprivation with slowly rotating wheels (3 h on/1 h off), we previously observed that 99 h of this protocol induced both homeostatic and allostatic (adaptive) changes in physiological and behavioural measures. Notably, the initial changes in sleep intensity and attention performance gradually adapted during CSR despite accumulating sleep loss. To identify brain regions involved in these responses, we used FosB/ΔFosB immunohistochemistry as a marker of chronic neuronal activation. Adult male rats were housed in motorized activity wheels and underwent the 3/1 CSR protocol for 99 h, or 99 h followed by 6 or 12 days of recovery. Control rats were housed in home cages, locked activity wheels, or unlocked activity wheels that the animals could turn freely. Immunohistochemistry was conducted using an antibody that recognized both FosB and ΔFosB, and 24 brain regions involved in sleep/wake, autonomic, and limbic functions were examined. The number of darkly-stained FosB/ΔFosB-immunoreactive cells was increased immediately following 99 h of CSR in 8/24 brain regions, including the medial preoptic and perifornical lateral hypothalamic areas, dorsomedial and paraventricular hypothalamic nuclei, and paraventricular thalamic nucleus. FosB/ΔFosB labeling was at control levels in all 8 brain areas following 6 or 12 recovery days, suggesting that most of the immunoreactivity immediately after CSR reflected FosB, the more transient marker of chronic neuronal activation. This region-specific induction of FosB/ΔFosB following CSR may be involved in the mechanisms underlying the allostatic changes in behavioural and physiological responses to CSR.

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