Researchers point out gene responsible for sleep deprivation, metabolic disorders

A new study has revealed that fruit flies, who have similar sleeping habits like humans, can tell a lot about the connection between sleep deprivation and metabolic disorders like diabetes, obesity, and blood glucose levels.

The study conducted by the Florida Atlantic University is the first to identify that a conserved gene called translin works as a modulator of sleep in response to metabolic changes. The study establishes that translin is an essential integrator of sleep and metabolic state, with important implications for understanding the neural mechanism underlying sleep deprivation in response to environmental challenges.

Acute sleep loss in humans is associated with increased appetite and insulin insensitivity, while chronically sleep-deprived individuals are more likely to develop obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Corresponding author Alex C Keene said that in humans, sleep and feeding are tightly interconnected and pathological disturbances of either process are associated with metabolism-related disorders. Keene added despite the widespread evidence for interactions between sleep loss and metabolic dysfunction, little is known about the molecular basis of this interaction and how these processes integrate within the brain.

Co-first author Kazuma Murakami said that while many genes have been identified as genetic regulators of sleep or metabolic state, mounting evidence from their study indicates that translin functions as a unique integrator of these processes.

Results of this study provide important evidence that translin is not required for the perception of starvation or to stimulate hunger-related behaviors, but is required to stimulate wakefulness in the absence of food. The research is published in the journal Current Biology.