DrOmics Labs

Snooze Button in the DNA: Fruit Fly GWAS Study Reveals Secrets of Falling Asleep

Sleep is a crucial aspect of our lives, and the amount of time it takes for an individual to fall asleep, known as sleep latency, is a key indicator of sleep need. Sleep latency varies considerably both among and within species and is heritable, but lacks a comprehensive description of its underlying genetic network. A recent study conducted a genome-wide association analysis on a wild-derived population of flies, identifying 520 polymorphisms in 248 genes contributing to variability in sleep latency. The research confirmed significant, heritable genetic variation for this complex trait, with sleep latency being highly variable and sexually dimorphic. The study also identified candidate genes enriched for certain pathways and gene ontology categories, providing valuable insights into the genetic network underlying sleep latency.

Key Findings

The study found that sleep latency is highly variable and heritable in the Drosophila Genetic Reference Panel (DGRP). The researchers identified 520 unique single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that mapped to within ± 1000 bp of 248 genes. The majority of these genes had human homologs, suggesting that the genes identified in fruit flies might be functionally conserved in humans.

The research also revealed a strong negative genetic correlation between sleep latency and night sleep duration, implying similar genetic architecture between these two traits. Overlapping the SNPs identified for night sleep duration with sleep latency SNPs revealed three overlapping SNPs and two overlapping candidate genes, Rbp6 and alpha-Man-I.

The study’s phenotypic and genetic correlations between sleep latency and other sleep and circadian traits showed a high correlation between sleep latency and night sleep duration CVE (the coefficient of environmental variation). Forty-seven SNPs overlapped between sleep latency and night sleep duration CVE, and twenty genes overlapped.

The researchers also found evidence of epistasis, or gene-gene interactions, contributing to sleep latency. They identified 6 significant pairwise interactions in males and 100 in females. The epistatic network connects to the known genetic and protein-protein interaction network via three genes: RNA-binding protein 6 (Rbp6), terribly reduced optic lobes (trol), and roadkill (rdx).

Implications for Future Research

This study provides a comprehensive analysis of sleep latency in Drosophila melanogaster, offering valuable insights into the genetic factors influencing this complex trait. The findings not only contribute to our understanding of sleep latency in fruit flies but also offer potential implications for understanding sleep latency in humans. Further research could focus on investigating the functional conservation of the genes identified in fruit flies and their potential roles in human sleep latency. Additionally, the study’s findings on epistasis and the interaction network of sleep latency genes could be a starting point for future research on gene-gene interactions and their role in sleep latency.


The genome-wide association study on sleep latency in Drosophila melanogaster provides a detailed and insightful analysis of the genetic factors influencing sleep latency. The study’s findings significantly enhance our understanding of the genetic factors that influence variation in sleep latency in Drosophila melanogaster and offer potential implications for understanding sleep latency in humans. The comprehensive nature of the research makes it a valuable resource for scientists and enthusiasts interested in the genetic determinants of sleep latency.


[1] Amin, N. et al. Genetic variants in RBFOX3 are associated with sleep latency. Eur. J. Hum. Genet. 24, 1488–1495. https://doi.org/10.1038/ejhg.2016.31 (2016).

[2] Riemann, D. et al. Insomnia disorder: State of the science and challenges for the future. J. Sleep Res. 31, e13604. https://doi.org/10.1111/jsr.13604 (2022).


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