Monday, October 15, 2018

Studying the Genetic Basis of Sleep Patterns in Fruit Flies

Humans have a very distinct differentiation in the required amount of sleep people need to function for the following day. This variation in humans is not unique, and even Drosophila melanogaster exhibit variations in sleep patterns as well. The ability to understand the genetic basis of sleep could help to identify molecular mechanisms that are essential in heredity of this trait. Researchers published an article on the website Genes|Genomes|Genetics, where researchers described a collection of inbred fruit flies that exhibit extreme sleep behaviors that would help them to ultimately determine the genetic basis of sleep needs.

A previous research study had created a population of fruit flies that showed long sleeping and short sleeping traits. Researchers worked with flies from the Drosophila Genetic Reference Panel (DGRP), which is a population of more than 200 inbred lines room Raleigh, North Carolina. Basically, DGRP is a library of fruit flies that have polymorphisms of complex traits. Researchers chose five longest and five shortest sleeping lines from the DGRP an allowed them to randomly cross for 21 generations to produce an outbred population. Using artificial selection, the researchers produced two long sleeping and two short sleeping populations.

From these populations, the new article highlights the researchers creating an inbred lines. Inbred ines are important in genetic studies because it reduces genetic variation. To create the inbred lines, the researchers selected a male and a female from each population and mated them and then selected one male and female fro the progeny to propagate the line. This process repeated for 20 generations and created a total of 39 inbred lines and these were called the Sleep Inbred Panel.

Simple demonstration of the process carried our by the scientists using inbreds

Night sleep of the inbred lines ranged from one hour to almost twelve hours, which demonstrates that the extreme phenotypes of sleep times were maintained in the inbred lines. Phenotypes were similar to the parental populations which demonstrates that inbreeding reduces genetic variability. The only variation between the new flies and the parent flies was due to the short sleeping population, which may have had a lower fitness than the other flies. Overall, the authors identified SNPs and genomic variations with sleep phenotypes that dates back to the DGRP inbred lines.

This research in fruit flies can help researchers determine variation in sleep cycles and sleep processes in humans. Perhaps there is a genetic connection between preference of sleep, like those who enjoy sleeping more in the morning or those that enjoy sleeping more at night and waking up earlier. Going a step further, finding the genetic connection to sleep patterns may help researchers identify the causes of sleep disorders and using some molecular genetics techniques could possibly cure those diseases. Personally, I am able to wake up earlier in the morning and also stay up late at night if possible, and seeing this research done on human genetics could just be an additional insight on how we function as humans and as a society in regards to sleep patterns.

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