Altered rapid eye movement sleep timing in serotonin transporter knockout mice.

Research paper by J P JP Wisor, S W SW Wurts, F S FS Hall, K P KP Lesch, D L DL Murphy, G R GR Uhl, D M DM Edgar

Indexed on: 25 Feb '03Published on: 25 Feb '03Published in: Neuroreport


The monoamine neurotransmitter serotonin has long been implicated in development and maintenance of sleep patterns, yet the role of the serotonin transporter (SERT) in these processes has not been evaluated in detail. We report that genetically engineered SERT knockout mice exhibit more REM sleep (REMS) than wild type littermates (11 vs 7% of recording time under baseline conditions) and display more frequent REMS bouts that last longer. This phenotype resembles the previously reported long-term effect of repeated treatment with SERT inhibitor compounds rather than the acute REMS suppressing effect of treatment with such compounds, and is thus likely to reflect neuroadaptations to the absence of SERT, rather than an acute effect of its absence in the adult. While electroencephalographic (EEG) spectra did not differ between SERT knockout and wild type mice during non-REM sleep (NREMS) or REMS, the dynamics of the EEG during the transition from NREMS to REMS differed between the genotypes. The surge in EEG power in both the 6-9 Hz and 10-16 Hz ranges that occurs just prior to the onset of REMS (pre-REMS power surge) is of greater magnitude in SERT knockout mice than in wild type littermate controls. This observation contrasts with the reduced magnitude pre-REMS power surge observed in rats subjected to REMS deprivation relative to yoked controls. These results indicate that the pre-REMS power surge is influenced by REMS history and by monoaminergic transmission. Genetic differences in serotonin systems and developmental exposure to SERT blockers are likely to exert effects on REMS.