A study by New York University researchers reveals a new function for the nerve cells that regulate circadian rhythms of behavior in fruit flies.
The nerve cells, called pacemaker neurons, contain a molecular clock that controls a 24-hour circadian rhythm in activity similar to the rhythms in sleep/wake cycles found in humans and many other organisms. It was previously known that pacemaker neurons receive visual signals to reset their molecular clocks, but scientists did not have any evidence that they transmitted information to their target cells, as most other neurons do.
The current study shows that pacemaker neurons do in fact transmit signals and are required for a rapid behavior, according to the paper, published in the January 20th issue of Neuron. The study was conducted by Esteban O. Mazzoni, a graduate student in NYUs Biology Department, Biology Professor Claude Desplan, and Assistant Biology Professor Justin Blau. The finding suggests it may be possible to identify genes that can be used to treat problems such as sleep disorders and jet lag.
James Devitt | EurekAlert!
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