Massart R, Freyburger M, Suderman M, Paquet J, El Helou J, Belanger-Nelson E, Rachalski A, Koumar OC, Carrier J, Szyf M, Mongrain V
Sleep is critical for normal brain function and mental health. However, the molecular mechanisms mediating the impact of sleep loss on both cognition and the sleep electroencephalogram remain mostly unknown. Acute sleep loss impacts brain gene expression broadly. These data contributed to current hypotheses regarding the role for sleep in metabolism, synaptic plasticity and neuroprotection. These changes in gene expression likely underlie increased sleep intensity following sleep deprivation (SD). Here we tested the hypothesis that epigenetic mechanisms coordinate the gene expression response driven by SD. We found that SD altered the cortical genome-wide distribution of two major epigenetic marks: DNA methylation and hydroxymethylation. DNA methylation differences were enriched in gene pathways involved in neuritogenesis and synaptic plasticity, whereas large changes (>4000 sites) in hydroxymethylation where observed in genes linked to cytoskeleton, signaling and neurotransmission, which closely matches SD-dependent changes in the transcriptome. Moreover, this epigenetic remodeling applied to elements previously linked to sleep need (for example, Arc and Egr1) and synaptic partners of Neuroligin-1 (Nlgn1; for example, Dlg4, Nrxn1 and Nlgn3), which we recently identified as a regulator of sleep intensity following SD. We show here that Nlgn1 mutant mice display an enhanced slow-wave slope during non-rapid eye movement sleep following SD but this mutation does not affect SD-dependent changes in gene expression, suggesting that the Nlgn pathway acts downstream to mechanisms triggering gene expression changes in SD. These data reveal that acute SD reprograms the epigenetic landscape, providing a unique molecular route by which sleep can impact brain function and health.