The genetic basis of sleep regulation remains poorly understood. In C. elegans, cellular stress induces sleep through epidermal growth factor (EGF)-dependent activation of the EGF receptor in the ALA neuron. The downstream mechanism by which this neuron promotes sleep is unknown. Single-cell RNA sequencing of ALA reveals that the most highly expressed, ALA-enriched genes encode neuropeptides. Here we have systematically investigated the four most highly enriched neuropeptides: flp-7, nlp-8, flp-24, and flp-13. When individually removed by null mutation, these peptides had little or no effect on stress-induced sleep. However, stress-induced sleep was abolished in nlp-8; flp-24; flp-13 triple-mutant animals, indicating that these neuropeptides work collectively in controlling stress-induced sleep. We tested the effect of overexpression of these neuropeptide genes on five behaviors modulated during sleep—pharyngeal pumping, defecation, locomotion, head movement, and avoidance response to an aversive stimulus—and we found that, if individually overexpressed, each of three neuropeptides (nlp-8, flp-24, or flp-13) induced a different suite of sleep-associated behaviors. These overexpression results raise the possibility that individual components of sleep might be specified by individual neuropeptides or combinations of neuropeptides.
Nath, R. D., Chow, E. S., Wang, H., Schwarz, E. M., & Sternberg, P. W. (2016). C. elegans Stress-Induced Sleep Emerges from the Collective Action of Multiple Neuropeptides. Current Biology, 26(18), 2446–2455. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2016.07.048