Restless Flies, Fragmented Sleep

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Science  22 Jun 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6088, pp. 1484
DOI: 10.1126/science.336.6088.1484-c
CREDIT: FREEMAN ET AL., CURR. BIOL. 22, 10.1016/J.CUB.2012.04.027 (2012)

Restless leg syndrome (RLS), characterized in humans by an irrepressible urge to move the legs, has been linked to the gene BTBD9 and its cognate protein. The BTBD9 protein is widely distributed through the central nervous system, where it seems to function as an adaptor for ubiquitin ligase. Freeman et al. have now identified a similar gene in Drosophila and analyzed its function. Deletion of the gene in Drosophila resulted in peripatetic flies with shortened life spans. These mutant flies also showed disrupted sleep patterns, with normal totals of sleep time delivered in fragmented, shortened bouts. Time spent walking, on the other hand, was greater than normal. Targeted knockdown experiments revealed a role for dopaminergic neuron subtypes. Treatment with a dopamine agonist reduced the flies' symptoms. In tissue culture cells, BTBD9 affected iron mobilization pathways through its interaction with iron regulatory protein-2.

Curr. Biol. 22, 10.1016/j.cub.2012.04.027 (2012).

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