永利网站:Gene mutation slashes need for sleep


By Alison Motluk Some mutant flies can get by on 永利网站 less sleep than their normal counterparts, thanks to a single mutation in one gene. The finding is important because it suggests the amount of sleep needed may be largely controlled by one gene, which may shed light on human sleep needs, says Chiara Cirelli at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, US. “This isn’t some obscure fly gene – there’s a homologue in mammals and humans.” Surprisingly, sleep in the common fruit fly – Drosophila melanogaster – has many similarities with mammalian sleep, including sleep-deprivation leading to impaired performance. Cirelli’s group has been painstakingly testing how mutations on each of 14,000 fly genes might affect slumber. They discovered that flies with one particular gene variant, dubbed “minisleep”, needed only 3 or 4 hours’ rest per day, compared to 10 to 12 hours for a normal fly. Yet, despite the lack of sleep, “minisleepers” showed no signs of impairment. They also coped better with sleep deprivation – the escape responses of minisleepers remained almost as quick after 24 hours without sleep, while the responses of normal flies flagged. The minisleep mutation is in a gene called Shaker, which codes for a protein that forms part of an ion channel in nerve cells. The same protein is found in mammals, and there are a handful of reports of people who really do seem to get by on a couple of hours sleep without any ill effects. Understanding how the protein works might make it possible to develop new kinds of drugs to help keep sleep-deprived people alert, the team suggests. There is a snag, though, since the lifespan of minisleepers was about 永利网站 shorter than normal. Journal reference: Nature (vol 434,
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