Gene regulates sleep cycle rhythms

Feb. 17, 2011 at 1:53 AM
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EVANSTON, Ill., Feb. 17 (UPI) -- If a fruit fly has trouble waking in the morning, it may be because it is missing a certain gene dubbed "twenty-four," U.S. researchers say.

Northwestern University scientists in Evanston, Ill., say the circadian clock drives, among other things, when an organism wakes up and when it sleeps. The findings involve the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, but have implications for humans, the researchers say.

"The function of a clock is to tell your system to be prepared, that the sun is rising, and it's time to get up," study leader Dr. Ravi Allada says in a statement. "The flies without the twenty-four gene did not become much more active before dawn. The equivalent in humans would be someone who has trouble getting out of bed in the morning."

Period is a gene in fruit flies that encodes a protein -- PER -- which regulates the circadian rhythm, Allada and his colleagues say.

The study, published in the journal Nature, found if the twenty-four gene is not present than very little PER protein is found in the neurons of the brain, and the fly's sleep-wake rhythm is disturbed.

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