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Early to Bed, Early to Rise: Genetics of the morning lark

 
  September, 27 2006 12:08
your information resource in human molecular genetics
 
     
In an upcoming G&D paper, a team of German scientists presents a genetic basis for understanding human morning lark behavior.

Dr. Achim Kramer (Charite Universitatsmedizin Berlin) and colleagues have uncovered a genetic cause for the human familial advanced sleep phase syndrome (FASPS), which causes people to both go to sleep and wake up very early.

FASPS is a dominantly inherited circadian rhythm disorder in which patients’ inborn biological clock (or circadian clock as it is known by scientists) runs ahead of normal. Circadian clocks are found in organisms ranging from bacteria to humans. They keep our bodies’ daily activities, like sleeping and eating, on a roughly 24 hour schedule, or period. FASPS patients’ periods are about 4 hours advanced, causing the patients to retire at 6 or 7pm and rise by 4am. In 1999, it was discovered that a mutated gene, called PERIOD2 (PER2) is mutated in many cases of FASPS.

Dr. Kramer and colleagues mapped phosphorylation sites on the PER2 protein. They identified 21 sites, one of which (Serine 659), was implicated in FASPS. By monitoring the bioluminescence cycles of human cell lines, the researchers demonstrated that mutation of Serine 659 causes a shortening of the luminescence period and recapitulates the FASPS phenotype. The researchers determined that the mutated form of Serine 659 does not get phosphorylated, leading to PER2’s destabilization and clearance from the cell nucleus.

The research team went on to show that mutations of other PER2 phosphorylation sites have differential effects on PER2 protein stability, circadian period length, and organismal behavior. In fact, using a simple mathematical algorithm modeled after their work, the researchers successfully explained how different PER phosphorylation defects result in the behaviors displayed by well-known circadian mutants in hamsters and fruit flies.


(C) 2006: Genes & Development

Vanselow K, Vanselow JT, Westermark PO, Reischl S, Maier B, Korte T, Herrmann A, Herzel H, Schlosser A, Kramer A.
Differential effects of PER2 phosphorylation: molecular basis for the human familial advanced sleep phase syndrome (FASPS).
Genes Dev. 2006 Sep 18;[Epub ahead of print]


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