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Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research

On-line version ISSN 1414-431X

Abstract

BENEDITO, M.A.C.  and  CAMARINI, R.. Rapid eye movement sleep deprivation induces an increase in acetylcholinesterase activity in discrete rat brain regions. Braz J Med Biol Res [online]. 2001, vol.34, n.1, pp. 103-109. ISSN 1414-431X.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0100-879X2001000100012.

Some upper brainstem cholinergic neurons (pedunculopontine and laterodorsal tegmental nuclei) are involved in the generation of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and project rostrally to the thalamus and caudally to the medulla oblongata. A previous report showed that 96 h of REM sleep deprivation in rats induced an increase in the activity of brainstem acetylcholinesterase (Achase), the enzyme which inactivates acetylcholine (Ach) in the synaptic cleft. There was no change in the enzyme's activity in the whole brain and cerebrum. The components of the cholinergic synaptic endings (for example, Achase) are not uniformly distributed throughout the discrete regions of the brain. In order to detect possible regional changes we measured Achase activity in several discrete rat brain regions (medulla oblongata, pons, thalamus, striatum, hippocampus and cerebral cortex) after 96 h of REM sleep deprivation. Naive adult male Wistar rats were deprived of REM sleep using the flower-pot technique, while control rats were left in their home cages. Total, membrane-bound and soluble Achase activities (nmol of thiocholine formed min-1 mg protein-1) were assayed photometrically. The results (mean ± SD) obtained showed a statistically significant (Student t-test) increase in total Achase activity in the pons (control: 147.8 ± 12.8, REM sleep-deprived: 169.3 ± 17.4, N = 6 for both groups, P<0.025) and thalamus (control: 167.4 ± 29.0, REM sleep-deprived: 191.9 ± 15.4, N = 6 for both groups, P<0.05). Increases in membrane-bound Achase activity in the pons (control: 171.0 ± 14.7, REM sleep-deprived: 189.5 ± 19.5, N = 6 for both groups, P<0.05) and soluble enzyme activity in the medulla oblongata (control: 147.6 ± 16.3, REM sleep-deprived: 163.8 ± 8.3, N = 6 for both groups, P<0.05) were also observed. There were no statistically significant differences in the enzyme's activity in the other brain regions assayed. The present findings show that the increase in Achase activity induced by REM sleep deprivation was specific to the pons, a brain region where cholinergic neurons involved in REM generation are located, and also to brain regions which receive cholinergic input from the pons (the thalamus and medulla oblongata). During REM sleep extracellular levels of Ach are higher in the pons, medulla oblongata and thalamus. The increase in Achase activity in these brain areas after REM sleep deprivation suggests a higher rate of Ach turnover.

Keywords : REM sleep deprivation; acetylcholinesterase; brain regions; thalamus; medulla oblongata; pons.

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