A good night’s sleep needs a comfy bed in a darkened room but what’s needed at a molecular level? A number of proteins that bind the neurotransmitter serotonin look like they’re important for regulating sleep in fruit flies. Now researchers have homed in on one called 5HT2b. Fluorescence microscopy revealed 5HT2b in nerve cells in the brain (pictured), in the cell membranes, nuclei, and neural projections (clockwise, from top left). Flies were bred that entirely lacked 5HT2b and they slept less. Specifically getting rid of it from a region of the brain called the dorsal fan-shaped body (dFB) had the same effect. Conversely getting rid of 5HT2b from all nerve cells and adding it back to the dFB alone increased sleep. More work will reveal if 5HT2b in the dFB is also crucial to mammals getting a good night’s sleep.
Written by Lux Fatimathas
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