Loss of gene ‘24′ saps will to wake up

February 17th, 2011 - 3:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 17 (IANS) In what could also impact humans, the loss of a crucial gene, dubbed “24″, disrupts the fruit fly’s sleep-wake cycle, sapping their will to awaken.The gene, discovered by Northwestern University scientists based on a study of the fruit fly, has implications for humans, too.

“The function of a clock is to tell your system to be prepared, that the sun is rising and it’s time to get up,” said Ravi Allada, professor of neurobiology, who led the research at Northwestern University, the journal Nature reports.

“The flies without the 24 gene did not become much more active before dawn. The equivalent in humans would be someone who has trouble getting out of bed in the morning.”

Period (per) is a gene in fruit flies that encodes a protein, called PER, which regulates the circadian rhythm, the cyclical 24-hour period of human biological activity. Allada and his colleagues found that 24 is critically important to produce this key clock protein, according to a Northwestern statement.

When “24″ is not present, very little PER protein is found in the neurons of the brain, and the fly’s sleep-wake rhythm is disturbed.

The gene’s generic name is CG4857, and the numbers add up to 24, earning it the nickname. The fruit fly’s genome was sequenced in 2000, but until now the function of this gene was unknown.

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