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Bioessays. 2003 Oct;25(10):940-9.

Searching for sleep mutants of Drosophila melanogaster.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin/Madison, 6001 Research Park Blvd, Madison WI 53719, USA.


The functions of sleep are still unknown, but are probably related to cellular and molecular aspects of neural function. To better understand the benefits that sleep may bring at the cellular level, recent studies have employed Drosophila melanogaster as a model system and shown that fruit flies share the fundamental features of mammalian sleep. As in mammals, sleep in Drosophila is characterized by increased arousal threshold and by changes in brain electrical activity. Fly sleep is homeostatically regulated independent of the circadian clock, is modulated by stimulants and hypnotics, and is affected by age. Also, fly sleep is associated with changes in brain gene expression similar to those observed in mammals. While Drosophila neurobiology is sufficiently complex to permit meaningful generalizations to mammals and humans, Drosophila genetics is simple enough to allow a rapid mutagenesis screening. An ongoing mutagenesis study has screened approximately 5000 mutant Drosophila lines and found that sleep amount, sleep pattern, and the homeostatic regulation of sleep are highly conserved phenotypes in flies. So far, this study has identified 10 short sleeper lines and 4 lines that show no sleep rebound after sleep deprivation. Ultimately, the characterization of these lines should help identifying crucial cellular pathways involved in the regulatory mechanisms of sleep and its functional consequences.

Copyright 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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