Research ArticleNeuroscience

ERK signaling pathway regulates sleep duration through activity-induced gene expression during wakefulness

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Sci. Signal.  24 Jan 2017:
Vol. 10, Issue 463, eaai9219
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.aai9219

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ERK preps the brain for sleep

Why do we feel more tired and tend to sleep longer and more deeply after a period of sleep deprivation or after a day that was full of physical or mental activity? Findings from Mikhail et al. using mice and cultured cortical neurons suggest that sleep deprivation or activity during the waking hours stimulates gene expression dependent in part on the kinase ERK. Signaling by the ERK pathway increased the duration of sleep and affected sleep patterns. Genetic deletion of ERK in cortical neurons or intracranial injection of an ERK inhibitor reduced the amount of sleep and extended the duration of wakefulness in mice. The findings support a previously reported link between sleep and ERK in flies to provide insight into the mechanisms regulating sleep in mammals.