Differential effects of chronic partial sleep deprivation and stress on serotonin-1A and muscarinic acetylcholine receptor sensitivity
Disrupted sleep and stress are often linked to each other, and considered as predisposing factors for psychopathologies such as depression. The depressed brain is associated with reduced serotonergic and enhanced cholinergic neurotransmission. In an earlier study, we showed that chronic sleep restriction by forced locomotion caused a gradual decrease in postsynaptic serotonin-1A receptor sensitivity, whilst chronic forced activity alone, with sufficient sleep time, did not affect receptor sensitivity. The first aim of the present study was to examine whether the sleep loss-induced change in receptor sensitivity is mediated by adrenal stress hormones. The results show that the serotonin-1A receptor desensitization is independent of adrenal hormones as it still occurs in adrenalectomized rats. The second aim of the study was to establish the effects of sleep restriction on cholinergic muscarinic receptor sensitivity. While sleep restriction affected muscarinic receptor sensitivity only slightly, forced activity significantly hypersensitized the muscarinic receptors. This hypersensitization is because of the stressful nature of the forced activity protocol as it did not occur in adrenalectomized rats. Taken together, these data confirm that sleep restriction may desensitize the serotonin-1A receptor system. This is not a generalized effect as sleep restriction did not affect the sensitivity of the muscarinic cholinergic receptor system, but the latter was hypersensitized by stress. Thus, chronic stress and sleep loss may, partly via different pathways, change the brain into a direction as it is seen in mood disorders.