The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

Optogenetic-mediated release of histamine reveals distal and autoregulatory mechanisms for controlling arousal.

PMID 24760861


Histaminergic neurons in the tuberomammillary nucleus (TMN) are an important component of the ascending arousal system and may form part of a "flip-flop switch" hypothesized to regulate sleep and wakefulness. Anatomical studies have shown that the wake-active TMN and sleep-active ventrolateral preoptic nucleus (VLPO) are reciprocally connected, suggesting that each region can inhibit its counterpart when active. In this study, we determined how histamine affects the two branches of this circuit. We selectively expressed channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) in TMN neurons and used patch-clamp recordings in mouse brain slices to examine the effects of photo-evoked histamine release in the ventrolateral TMN and VLPO. Photostimulation decreased inhibitory GABAergic inputs to the ventrolateral TMN neurons but produced a membrane hyperpolarization and increased inhibitory synaptic input to the VLPO neurons. We found that in VLPO the response to histamine was indirect, most likely via a GABAergic interneuron. Our experiments demonstrate that release of histamine from TMN neurons can disinhibit the TMN and suppresses the activity of sleep-active VLPO neurons to promote TMN neuronal firing. This further supports the sleep-wake "flip-flop switch" hypothesis and a role for histamine in stabilizing the switch to favor wake states.