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Although it is widely accepted that sleep must serve an essential biological function, little is known about molecules that underlie sleep regulation. Given that insomnia is a common sleep disorder that disrupts the ability to initiate and maintain restorative sleep, a better understanding of its molecular underpinning may provide crucial insights into sleep regulatory processes. Thus, we created a line of flies using laboratory selection that share traits with human insomnia. After 60 generations, insomnia-like (ins-l) flies sleep 60 min a day, exhibit difficulty initiating sleep, difficulty maintaining sleep, and show evidence of daytime cognitive impairment. ins-l flies are also hyperactive and hyperresponsive to environmental perturbations. In addition, they have difficulty maintaining their balance, have elevated levels of dopamine, are short-lived, and show increased levels of triglycerides, cholesterol, and free fatty acids. Although their core molecular clock remains intact, ins-l flies lose their ability to sleep when placed into constant darkness. Whole-genome profiling identified genes that are modified in ins-l flies. Among those differentially expressed transcripts, genes involved in metabolism, neuronal activity, and sensory perception constituted over-represented categories. We demonstrate that two of these genes are upregulated in human subjects after acute sleep deprivation. Together, these data indicate that the ins-l flies are a useful tool that can be used to identify molecules important for sleep regulation and may provide insights into both the causes and long-term consequences of insomnia.

Original publication




Journal article


J Neurosci

Publication Date





7148 - 7157


Analysis of Variance, Animals, Animals, Genetically Modified, Avoidance Learning, Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors, Behavior, Animal, Cholesterol, Circadian Rhythm, Contractile Proteins, Disease Models, Animal, Dopamine, Drosophila, Drosophila Proteins, Fatty Acids, Nonesterified, Female, Filamins, Gene Expression Profiling, Gene Expression Regulation, Humans, Lipids, Locomotion, Malate Dehydrogenase, Male, Microfilament Proteins, Neurotransmitter Agents, Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis, Peptide Hormones, Phenotype, Sleep, Sleep Deprivation, Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders, Statistics, Nonparametric, Stress, Psychological, Triglycerides, Wakefulness