Modafinil protects hippocampal neurons by suppressing excessive autophagy and apoptosis in mice with sleep deprivation

Article date: May 2019

By: Yin Cao, Qinglin Li, Lulu Liu, Hui Wu, Fei Huang, Changhong Wang, Yunyi Lan, Fang Zheng, Faping Xing, Qiang Zhou, Qi Li, Hailian Shi, Beibei Zhang, Zhengtao Wang, Xiaojun Wu in Volume 176, Issue 9, pages 1282-1297

Background and Purpose

Sleep deprivation compromises learning and memory in both humans and animals, and can be reversed by administration of modafinil, a drug promoting wakefulness. Dysfunctional autophagy increases activation of apoptotic cascades, ultimately leading to increased neuronal death, which can be alleviated by autophagy inhibitors. This study aimed to investigate the alleviative effect and mechanism of modafinil on the excessive autophagy occurring in the hippocampus of mice with deficiency of learning and memory induced by sleep deprivation.

Experimental Approach

The Morris water maze was used to assess the effects of modafinil on male C57BL/6Slac mice after 48‐hr sleep deprivation. The HT‐22 hippocampal neuronal cell line was also used. Nissl staining, transmission electron microscope, immunofluorescence, Western blot, transient transfection, and autophagy inducer were used to study the effect and mechanism of modafinil on hippocampal neurons with excessive autophagy and apoptosis.

Key Results

Modafinil improved learning and memory in sleep‐deprived mice, associated with the inhibition of excessive autophage and apoptosis and an enhanced activation of the PI3K/Akt/mTOR/P70S6K signalling pathway in hippocampal neurons. These effects of modafinil were abolished by rapamycin. In addition, modafinil suppressed the aberrant autophagy and apoptosis induced by rapamycin and reactivated PI3K/Akt/mTOR/P70S6K signals in HT‐22 cells.

Conclusions and Implications

These results suggested that modafinil alleviated impaired learning and memory of sleep‐deprived mice potentially by suppressing excessive autophagy and apoptosis of hippocampal neurons. This novel mechanism may add to our knowledge of modafinil in the clinical treatment of impaired memory caused by sleep loss.

DOI: 10.1111/bph.14626

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