How, then, has this seemingly life-threatening behavior remained constant among various species of animals?
A new study by scientists at North Carolina State University shows that the fruit fly is genetically wired to sleep, although the sleep comes in widely variable amounts and patterns. Learning more about the genetics of sleep in model animals could lead to advances in understanding human sleep and how sleep loss affects the human condition.
The study, published online in Nature Genetics, examined the sleep and activity patterns of 40 different wild-derived lines of Drosophila melanogaster – one of the model animals used in scientific studies. It found that, on average, male fruit flies slept longer than females; males slept more during the day than females; and males were more active when awake than females. Females, in turn, tended to have more frequent bouts of sleep, and thus were disrupted more from sleep, than males.
The study identified almost 1,700 genes associated with the variability of sleep in fruit flies, say study authors Dr. Trudy Mackay, William Neal Reynolds and Distinguished University Professor of Genetics and Entomology, and Dr. Susan Harbison, a post-doctoral researcher in Mackay's lab. Many of these genes were not previously known to affect sleep.
Fruit flies within each of the 40 lines were homozygous, or exactly the same genetically, but the lines were completely different from one another, Mackay says. Small glass tubes containing one fruit fly and some food were placed in a machine that uses infrared sensors to monitor the minute-by-minute activity of the flies. If at least five minutes passed without any fly activity, it was calculated as sleep.
The study predicted that certain important genes would affect sleep duration. Independent verification with mutations in those genes did indeed have an effect on how long fruit flies slept. The study also discovered teams of genes that appeared to act together to affect some portion of sleep.
"We're starting to get a glimmer of how groups of correlated genes are overrepresented in different traits, and we now know more about how traits are associated with each other at the molecular level," Mackay says.
Dr. Trudy Mackay | EurekAlert!
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22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
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Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
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Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
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For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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