Reduced sleep in Drosophila Shaker mutants


Most of us sleep 7–8 h per night, and if we are deprived of sleep our performance suffers greatly; however, a few do well with just 3–4 h of sleep—a trait that seems to run in families. Determining which genes underlie this phenotype could shed light on the mechanisms and functions of sleep. To do so, we performed mutagenesis in Drosophila melanogaster, because flies also sleep for many hours and, when sleep deprived, show sleep rebound and performance impairments. By screening 9,000 mutant lines, we found minisleep (mns), a line that sleeps for one-third of the wild-type amount. We show that mns flies perform normally in a number of tasks, have preserved sleep homeostasis, but are not impaired by sleep deprivation. We then show that mns flies carry a point mutation in a conserved domain of the Shaker gene. Moreover, after crossing out genetic modifiers accumulated over many generations, other Shaker alleles also become short sleepers and fail to complement the mns phenotype. Finally, we show that short-sleeping Shaker flies have a reduced lifespan. Shaker, which encodes a voltage-dependent potassium channel controlling membrane repolarization and transmitter release, may thus regulate sleep need or efficiency.

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Figure 1: Sleep in mns flies.
Figure 2: Response to sleep deprivation and measures of performance in mns flies.
Figure 3: The Shaker channel and the mns mutation.
Figure 4: Effects of outcrossing on daily sleep amount and longevity.


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This work was supported by a grant from the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. B.G. is funded by NIH. We thank C. Holladay for technical assistance, M. Heisenberg and his laboratory for help with the heat box, and M. Rosbash for the circadian software.

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Correspondence to Giulio Tononi.

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The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Figure S1

Activity histograms in 3 representative mns female flies over two days in light-dark (LD 1-2) and two days in constant darkness (DD 5-6). (JPG 30 kb)

Supplementary Figure S2

Genetic mapping of the shaking and short sleeping phenotype in mns flies. (JPG 39 kb)

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Cirelli, C., Bushey, D., Hill, S. et al. Reduced sleep in Drosophila Shaker mutants. Nature 434, 1087–1092 (2005).

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