Excessive calcium influx in chemosensitive neurons of area postrema (AP) is detrimental for sympathetic activation and participates in the disruption of cardiovascular activities. Since total sleep deprivation (TSD) is a stressful condition known to harm the cardiovascular function, the present study is aimed to determine whether the in vivo calcium expression in AP would significantly alter following TSD by the use of time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (TOF-SIMS) and calretinin (a specific calcium sensor protein in AP neurons) immunohistochemistry. The results indicated that in normal rats, the calcium intensity was estimated to be 0.5 × 105 at m/z 40.08. However, following TSD, the intensity for calcium ions was greatly increased to 1.2 × 105. Molecular imaging revealed that after TSD, various strongly expressed calcium signals were distributed throughout AP with clear identified profiles instead of randomly scattered within this region in normal rats. Immunohistochemical staining corresponded well with ionic image in which a majority of calcium-enriched gathering co-localized with calretinin positive neurons. The functional significance of TSD-induced calcium augmentation was demonstrated by increased heart rate and mean arterial pressure, clinical markers for cardiovascular dysfunction. Considering AP-mediated sympathetic activation is important for cardiovascular regulation, exaggerated calcium influx in AP would render this neurocircuitry more vulnerable to over-excitation, which might serve as the underlying mechanism for the development of TSD-relevant cardiovascular deficiency.
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