Description of Research Expertise
The regulation and function of sleep
Key Words: sleep, ecdysis, molting, behavior, amyloid, neuropeptides
Description of Research
Quiescent behavioral states are universal to the animal world with the most famous and mysterious of these being sleep. Despite the fact that we spend one third of our life sleeping, and despite the fact that all animals sleep, the core function of sleep remains a mystery. In addition, the molecular basis underlying sleep/wake regulation is poorly understood.
We use C. elegans as a model system to address these questions. C. elegans offers many experimental advantages including powerful genetic tools as well as a simple neuroanatomy.
Growth of C. elegans from an embryo to an adult is punctuated by four molts, during which the animal secretes a new cuticle and sheds its old one. Prior to each molt the worm has a quiescent behavioral state called lethargus. Lethargus has several similarities to sleep including rapid reversibility to strong stimulation, increased sensory arousal threshold, and homeostatic regulation.
In addition to larval sleep, C. elegans also sleeps during the adult stage, after exposure to an environment that induces cellular stress.
Molecular genetic similarity between C. elegans sleep and sleep in other animals is demonstrated by the identification of signaling pathways that regulate C. elegans sleep in the similar fashion to their regulation of sleep in mammals and arthropods. We have identified new sleep regulators in C. elegans and are currently studying how and in which cells these regulators function.
By studying the purpose and genetic regulation of nematode sleep, we hope to identify additional novel sleep regulators, and to gain insight into why sleep had evolved, a central biological mystery.
Please see David about possible projects.