We addressed the role of nitric oxide (NO) in orexin neuron degeneration that has been observed under various pathological conditions. Administration of an NO donor NOC18 (50 nmol) into the third ventricle of mice resulted in a significant decrease of orexinimmunoreactive (-IR) neurons, in contrast to a modest change in melanin-concentrating hormone-IR neurons. In addition, NOC18 promoted formation of orexin-A-IR aggregates within orexin neurons. An endoplasmic reticulum stress inducer tunicamycin replicated the effect of NOC18 with regard to decrease of orexin-IR neurons and formation of aggregates. We also found that NOC18 caused an increase in S-nitrosation of protein disulfide isomerase (PDI) and a decrease in PDI activity in hypothalamic tissues. Moreover, PDI inhibitors, such as cystamine and securinine, caused a selective decrease of orexin neurons and promoted formation of orexin-A-IR aggregates. Aggregate formation in orexin-IR neurons was also induced by local injection of small interfering RNA targeting PDI. Interestingly, sleep deprivation for 7 consecutive days induced a selective decrease of orexin-IR neurons, which was preceded by aggregate formation in orexin-IR neurons and an increase in S-nitrosated PDI in the hypothalamus. Activity of neuronalNOsynthase (nNOS)- positive neurons in the lateral hypothalamus as assessed by c-Fos expression was elevated in response to sleep deprivation. Finally, sleep deprivation-induced decrease of orexin-IR neurons, formation of aggregates, and S-nitrosation of PDI were not observed in nNOS knock-out mice. These results indicate that nNOS-derived NO may mediate specific pathological events in orexin neurons, including neuropeptide misfolding via S-nitrosation and inactivation of PDI.
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