A single gene can disrupt the sleep-wake cycle

Neurons in drosophila brain marked with green fluorescent protein. The most colored parts highlight the mushroom bodies, a key center for sleep regulation.

All living organisms are subject to an internal biological rhythm, which controls many physiological processes. In humans in particular, this internal clock follows a 24-hour cycle and occurs even in the absence of external triggers, such as changes in light or temperature. Using the genetic model organism Drosophila melanogaster, a team from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, has discovered that the Nf1 gene is essential for the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle. This gene is also involved in a common genetic disease in humans – neurofibromatosis – which leads to the formation of tumors in the nervous system. This discovery could help explain certain symptoms observed in patients suffering from this disease, in particular the disturbance of their sleep.

The article was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Check out the UNIGE press release.