Sleep loss triggers changes in inflammatory signaling pathways in the brain and periphery. The mechanisms that underlie these changes are ill-defined. The Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) activates inflammatory signaling cascades in response to endogenous and pathogen-associated ligands known to be elevated in association with sleep loss. TLR4 is therefore a possible mediator of some of the inflammation-related effects of sleep loss. Here we describe the baseline electroencephalographic sleep phenotype and the biochemical and electroencephalographic responses to sleep loss in TLR4-deficient mice.
Design, Measurements and Results:
TLR4-deficient mice and wild type controls were subjected to electroencephalographic and electromyographic recordings during spontaneous sleep/wake cycles and during and after sleep restriction sessions of 3, 6, and 24-h duration, during which sleep was disrupted by an automated sleep restriction system. Relative to wild type control mice, TLR4-deficient mice exhibited an increase in the duration of the primary daily waking bout occurring at dark onset in a light/dark cycle. The amount of time spent in non-rapid eye movement sleep by TLR4-deficient mice was reduced in proportion to increased wakefulness in the hours immediately after dark onset. Subsequent to sleep restriction, EEG measures of increased sleep drive were attenuated in TLR4-deficient mice relative to wild-type mice. TLR4 was enriched 10-fold in brain cells positive for the cell surface marker CD11b (cells of the monocyte lineage) relative to CD11b-negative cells in wild type mouse brains. To assess whether this population was affected selectively by TLR4 knockout, flow cytometry was used to count F4/80- and CD45-positive cells in the brains of sleep deprived and time of day control mice. While wild-type mice exhibited a significant reduction in the number of CD11b-positive cells in the brain after 24-h sleep restriction, TLR4-deficient mice did not.
These data demonstrate that innate immune signaling pathways active in the monocyte lineage, including presumably microglia, detect and mediate in part the cerebral reaction to sleep loss.
Wisor JP; Clegern WC; Schmidt MA. Toll-like receptor 4 is a regulator of monocyte and electroencephalographic responses to sleep loss. SLEEP 2011;34(10):1335–1345.