Changes in brain gene expression after long-term sleep deprivation

Chiara Cirelli, Ugo Faraguna, Giulio Tononi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Long-term sleep deprivation in rats produces dramatic physiological changes including increase in energy expenditure, decrease in body weight, and death after 2-3 weeks. Despite several studies, the sleep deprivation syndrome remains largely unexplained. Here, to elucidate how prolonged sleep loss affects brain cells we used microarrays and screened the expression of > 26 000 transcripts in the cerebral cortex. Rats were sleep deprived using the disk-over-water method for 1 week. Seventy-five transcripts showed increased expression in these animals relative to controls that had been spontaneously awake or sleep deprived for a few hours. Most of them were induced as a result of chronic sleep loss and not non-specific effects of the disk stimulation. They include transcripts coding for several immunoglobulins, stress response proteins (macrophage inhibitor factor-related protein 14, heat-shock protein 27, α-B-crystallin), minoxidil sulfotransferase, globins and cortistatin. Twenty-eight transcripts decreased their expression in long-term sleep-deprived rats. Sixteen of them were specifically decreased as a result of chronic sleep loss, including those coding for type I procollagen and dihydrolipoamide acetyltransferase. We also compared sleeping rats to short-term and long-term sleep-deprived rats, and found that acute and chronic sleep loss led to some differences at the molecular level. Several plasticity-related genes were strongly induced after acute sleep deprivation only, and several glial genes were down-regulated in both sleep deprivation conditions, but to a different extent. These findings suggest that sustained sleep loss may trigger a generalized inflammatory and stress response in the brain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1632-1645
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2006


  • Cerebral cortex
  • Microarray
  • Rat
  • Sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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