Sci Signal.: auth.: group Tafti

Sci Signal. 2017 Jan 24;10(463). pii: eaai9219. doi: 10.1126/scisignal.aai9219.

ERK signaling pathway regulates sleep duration through activity-induced gene expression during wakefulness.


Wakefulness is accompanied by experience-dependent synaptic plasticity and an increase in activity-regulated gene transcription. Wake-induced genes are certainly markers of neuronal activity and may also directly regulate the duration of and need for sleep. We stimulated murine cortical cultures with the neuromodulatory signals that are known to control wakefulness in the brain and found that norepinephrine alone or a mixture of these neuromodulators induced activity-regulated gene transcription. Pharmacological inhibition of the various signaling pathways involved in the regulation of gene expression indicated that the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway is the principal one mediating the effects of waking neuromodulators on gene expression. In mice, ERK phosphorylation in the cortex increased and decreased with wakefulness and sleep. Whole-body or cortical neuron-specific deletion of Erk1 or Erk2 significantly increased the duration of wakefulness in mice, and pharmacological inhibition of ERK phosphorylation decreased sleep duration and increased the duration of wakefulness bouts. Thus, this signaling pathway, which is highly conserved from Drosophila to mammals, is a key pathway that links waking experience-induced neuronal gene expression to sleep duration and quality.

PMID: 28119463