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We spend about one third of our lives asleep. Without sleep we feel miserable, get ill and age faster. This demonstrates the importance of sleep and that the time that is spend asleep is well invested. About 30 % of the adult population of modern societies are suffering from sleep disorders or sleep curtailment, posing a massive unsolved health problem. Despite its importance, we know only little about the mechanisms that control sleep and about the basic cellular and molecular processes that are regenerated during sleep. Not only humans, but also animals sleep, at least those that have a nervous system. Sleep is a phylogenetically ancient process and its underlying mechanisms are highly conserved. Across species, sleep is induced by sleep-active neurons, and understanding sleep control requires an understanding of how the depolarization of sleep-active neurons is controlled. Through sleep deprivation the consequences of sleep loss can be studied.

We are studying the molecular mechanisms underlying sleep control and functions using animal models. Our focus is on the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and we are using also mice for translational experiments and try to understand how and why animals sleep. C. elegans is a fantastic model system to study the physiology of sleep. “The worm” possesses a small and invariant nervous system of 302 neurons, whose connectivity is known. Precisely one of these neurons is sleep active and induces sleep. Thus, C. elegans presents a highly simplified and molecularly accessible system to study sleep. The generation time is only three days, facilitating genetic methods. C. elegans is transparent, allowing the study and manipulation of physiological processes non-invasively. We use molecular genetics, optogenetics, functional neural imaging, high-resolution long-term microscopy, behavioral assays, electrophysiology, sleep deprivation, aging analysis as well as molecular analytical methods (omics) to study sleep regulation and functions.

Prof. Dr. Henrik Bringmann

Tel:++49 6421 28 26510 (Mrs. Zissel, Secretary)

Fax:++49 6421 28 26590 (Mrs. Zissel, Office)


Abbildung 1
Figure 1: (A) The nematode C. elegans possesses one single sleep-active neuron that is called RIS. (B) Calcium imaging demonstrates RIS depolarization during a sleep bout. (C) Loss of functional RIS causes an absence of sleep. © Michal Turek, Florentin Masurat, Henrik Bringmann
Abbildung 2
Figure 2: The nematode C. elegans sleeps, to protect its cells from aging. While the worm that has slept is heathy (left), the sleepless worm (right) shows damage of the musculature, which has been dyed green. © Yin Wu, Henrik Bringmann

Last modified: 29.01.2019 · Mechthild Zissel

Fb. 17 - Biologie

AG Neurobiologie/Ethologie, Karl-von-Frisch-Straße 8, D-35043 Marburg
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