Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Flies caught napping

22.10.2001


Researchers discover two molecules that help fruitflies sleep.


A resting result: flies hint at the chemistry of human sleep.
© SPL



Mutant flies that lack the chemicals sleep more. In mammals the same molecules are also involved in learning and memory, supporting the idea that one function of sleep is to consolidate our record of the day’s experiences1.

The molecules are cyclic AMP and CREB, chemical messengers that work within cells. Cyclic AMP activates CREB, which then switches on genes.


Joan Hendricks, of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and her colleagues genetically altered fruitflies (Drosophila) to produce unusually low or high amounts of cyclic AMP, and thence CREB, or enhanced or reduced CREB alone.

Chemically enhanced flies slept less, deficient flies more. Flies that were low in active CREB needed more ’rebound’ sleep to compensate for their disturbed rest. "They weren’t fully awake for days afterwards," says Hendricks. CREB may keep flies awake, and they may become sleepy as it is used up.

The genes and molecules involved in sleep have been a mystery. "We have essentially no understanding of the molecular basis of [sleep regulation]," says neuroscientist Fred Turek of Northwestern University, Illinois. The CREB/AMP discovery is a significant advance, he says.

There is a pressing need, Turek explains, for non-addictive drugs that can help insomniacs and the elderly to drop off and help shift-workers to adjust their sleeping patterns. There is also a demand for drugs that will keep people awake. "The US military is very, very interested in finding compounds that allow personnel to stay awake and alert," Turek adds.

"It’s great to find a gene, but exactly what it’s doing is unclear," cautions sleep researcher Paul Shaw, of the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego. There are many things that keep animals awake indirectly, he points out: "If you’ve got stomach ache, you’re not going to sleep well."

A nod to learning

The connection between sleep and learning is tantalizing, but as yet unclear. "There’s an exciting link between the two, but it’s been somewhat maddening to get at," says Shaw. Combining sleep deprivation and learning experiments in these flies might be a way forward, he suggests.

We can’t be sure that sleep in flies and mammals is the same - flies don’t have the same electrical patterns of brain activity. But behaviourally "the similarities are eerie", says Shaw. "I believe that we can cautiously extrapolate from flies to mammals."

Cyclic AMP and CREB are implicated in learning and memory in many organisms. Cyclic AMP helps flies form short-term memories. Mutants with low CREB have difficulty forming long-term memories; the memories of insects with extra CREB have been called ’photographic’.

References
  1. Hendricks, J. C. et al. A non-circadian role for camp signaling and CREB activity in Drosophila rest homeostasis. Nature Neuroscience, (2001).

John Whitfield | Nature News Service
Further information:
http://www.nature.com/nsu/011025/011025-7.html
http://www.nature.com/nsu/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New eDNA technology used to quickly assess coral reefs
18.04.2019 | University of Hawaii at Manoa

nachricht New automated biological-sample analysis systems to accelerate disease detection
18.04.2019 | Polytechnique Montréal

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

A stellar flare 10 times more powerful than anything seen on our sun has burst from an ultracool star almost the same size as Jupiter

  • Coolest and smallest star to produce a superflare found
  • Star is a tenth of the radius of our Sun
  • Researchers led by University of Warwick could only see...

Im Focus: Quantum simulation more stable than expected

A localization phenomenon boosts the accuracy of solving quantum many-body problems with quantum computers which are otherwise challenging for conventional computers. This brings such digital quantum simulation within reach on quantum devices available today.

Quantum computers promise to solve certain computational problems exponentially faster than any classical machine. “A particularly promising application is the...

Im Focus: Largest, fastest array of microscopic 'traffic cops' for optical communications

The technology could revolutionize how information travels through data centers and artificial intelligence networks

Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have built a new photonic switch that can control the direction of light passing through optical fibers...

Im Focus: A long-distance relationship in femtoseconds

Physicists observe how electron-hole pairs drift apart at ultrafast speed, but still remain strongly bound.

Modern electronics relies on ultrafast charge motion on ever shorter length scales. Physicists from Regensburg and Gothenburg have now succeeded in resolving a...

Im Focus: Researchers 3D print metamaterials with novel optical properties

Engineers create novel optical devices, including a moth eye-inspired omnidirectional microwave antenna

A team of engineers at Tufts University has developed a series of 3D printed metamaterials with unique microwave or optical properties that go beyond what is...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

Fraunhofer FHR at the IEEE Radar Conference 2019 in Boston, USA

09.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

New automated biological-sample analysis systems to accelerate disease detection

18.04.2019 | Life Sciences

Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

18.04.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

New eDNA technology used to quickly assess coral reefs

18.04.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>