Identification of causal genes, networks, and transcriptional regulators of REM sleep and wake

Joshua Millstein, Christopher J. Winrow, Andrew Kasarskis, Joseph R. Owens, Lili Zhou, Keith C. Summa, Karrie Fitzpatrick, Bin Zhang, Martha H. Vitaterna, Eric E. Schadt, John J. Renger, Fred W. Turek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Study Objective: Sleep-wake traits are well-known to be under substantial genetic control, but the specific genes and gene networks underlying primary sleep-wake traits have largely eluded identification using conventional approaches, especially in mammals. Thus, the aim of this study was to use systems genetics and statistical approaches to uncover the genetic networks underlying 2 primary sleep traits in the mouse: 24-h duration of REM sleep and wake. Design: Genome-wide RNA expression data from 3 tissues (anterior cortex, hypothalamus, thalamus/midbrain) were used in conjunction with high-density genotyping to identify candidate causal genes and networks mediating the effects of 2 QTL regulating the 24-h duration of REM sleep and one regulating the 24-h duration of wake. Setting: Basic sleep research laboratory. Patients or Participants: Male [C57BL/6J x (BALB/cByJ x C57BL/6J*) F1 ] N2 mice (n = 283). Interventions: None. Measurements and Results: The genetic variation of a mouse N2 mapping cross was leveraged against sleep-state phenotypic variation as well as quantitative gene expression measurement in key brain regions using integrative genomics approaches to uncover multiple causal sleep-state regulatory genes, including several surprising novel candidates, which interact as components of networks that modulate REM sleep and wake. In particular, it was discovered that a core network module, consisting of 20 genes, involved in the regulation of REM sleep duration is conserved across the cortex, hypothalamus, and thalamus. A novel application of a formal causal inference test was also used to identify those genes directly regulating sleep via control of expression. Conclusion: Systems genetics approaches reveal novel candidate genes, complex networks and specific transcriptional regulators of REM sleep and wake duration in mammals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1469-1477
Number of pages9
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Gene expression
  • Mouse
  • REM sleep
  • Systems genetics


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