New research has uncovered a mechanism for regulating sleep in fruit flies using taurine, an ingredient commonly found in energy drinks.
There is growing evidence that glial cells (or glia), long thought to simply “support” neurons within the brain, are actually quite important for diverse aspects of sleep regulation. Thanks to the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster), research teams at Florida Atlantic University and McGill University in Quebec have discovered a new mechanism regulating sleep that involves glia and their ability to manage a common ingredient found in many energy drinks.
Fruit flies share 75 percent of the genes that cause diseases in humans and display all of the behavioral and physiological characteristics of sleep. For the study, published in the journal Current Biology, the researchers sought to identify new genes affecting sleep and wakefulness in fruit flies. With this approach, they uncovered a gene that encodes the membrane transport protein known as excitatory amino acid transporter 2 or Eaat2.
They found that Eaat2 promotes wakefulness in fruit flies by limiting the length and intensity of sleep periods.