esearchers have found a gene that acts as a link between illness and need for more sleep.
In a study of over 12,000 lines of fruit flies, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania in the United States have found the single gene—nemuri that enhances the need for sleep.
Nemuri protein fights germs with its inherent antimicrobial activity and it is secreted by cells in the brain to drive prolonged, deep sleep after an infection.
Without the nemuri gene, flies were more easily aroused during daily sleep, and their acute need for an increase in sleep (induced by sleep deprivation or infection) was reduced.
On the other hand, sleep deprivation, which increases the need for sleep, and to some extent infection, stimulated nemuri to be expressed in a small set of fly neurons nestled close to a known sleep-promoting structure in the brain.
Over expression of nemuri increased sleep in bacteria-infected flies and led to their increased survival compared to non-infected control flies.
In response to infection, nemuri appears to kill microbes and increases sleep through its action in the brain.