Monoamines and Sleep inDrosophila

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Sleep is an important physiological state, but its function and regulation remain elusive. Drosophila melanogaster is a useful model organism for studying sleep because it has a well-established diurnal activity pattern, including consolidated periods of quiescence that share many characteristics with human sleep. Sleep behavior is regulated by circadian and homeostatic processes and is modulated by environmental and physiological context cues. These cues are communicated to sleep circuits by neurohormones and neuromodulators. A major class of neuromodulators, monoamines, has been found to be essential in various aspects of sleep regulation. Dopamine promotes arousal and sleep-dependent memory formation as well as daily activity. Octopamine, the insect homolog of norepinephrine, promotes wake and may play a role in circadian clock-dependent sleep and arousal. Serotonin promotes sleep and modulates circadian entrainment to light. The different monoamines each signal through multiple receptors in various brain regions in response to different conditions. How these separate circuits integrate their inputs into a single program of behavior is an open field of study for which Drosophila will continue to be a useful model. Monoamine biosynthetic pathways and receptors are conserved between flies and humans, and, thus far, their roles in modulating sleep also appear to be conserved.

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