The ATP-cytokine-adenosine hypothesis: How the brain translates past activity into sleep

Parijat Sengupta, Sandip Roy, James M. Krueger

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF), interleukin-1 beta (IL1), and other cytokines are involved in non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM) regulation under physiological and inflammatory conditions. Brain levels of IL1 and TNF increase with prolonged wakefulness. Injection of exogenous IL1 or TNF, mimicking sleep loss, induces sleepiness, excess sleep, fatigue, poor cognition, and enhanced sensitivity to pain. These symptoms characterize the syndrome associated with sleep loss. Extracellular ATP released during neuro- and glio-transmission, acting via purine P2 receptors on glia, releases IL1 and TNF. This extracellular ATP mechanism may provide an index of activity used by the brain to keep track of prior wakefulness. Prolonged wakefulness is associated with enhanced neuronal activity. TNF and IL1, in turn, act on neurons to change their intrinsic properties and sensitivities to neurotransmitters and neuromodulators such as adenosine and glutamate. Such actions change network input-output properties (i.e. state shift). State oscillations, for instance, occur within cortical columns and are responsive to TNF. Sleep is thus viewed as a local use-dependent process regulated in part by cytokines. Further, state oscillations are viewed as a fundamental process of any neuronal/glia network. To investigate these hypotheses we developed an in vitro neuronal/glia culture system exhibiting field potential oscillations and have mathematically modeled the local use-dependent view of sleep initiation. These views have profound implications for sleep pathologies and function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-33
Number of pages5
JournalSleep and Biological Rhythms
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Feb 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell cultures
  • Cytokine
  • Field potentials
  • Local use-dependent sleep
  • Modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


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