The Role of ERK in Sleep and Synaptic Plasticity in Drosophila Melanogaster

Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2012

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Biology & Biomedical Sciences (Neurosciences)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Sleep must serve some vital function in biology. Prolonged sleep deprivation studies have shown that sleep loss results in physiological consequences including cognitive impairments and in extreme cases even death. Although much research effort has been devoted to understanding the function of sleep, the reasons we sleep remain a mystery. Recent evidence suggests that the function of sleep may lie in maintaining synapses. This "synaptic homeostasis" hypothesis states that while awake, the plastic brain accumulates synapses that sleep serves to downscale. This downscaling is an important feature of sleep in that it allows for information to be consolidated and stored without the energetic and spatial restraints of continually adding new connections. The mechanisms of, and molecules in support of this hypothesis are not well defined. The genetically tractable organism of Drosophila melanogaster is a useful model for molecular studies relating sleep and plasticity. In this thesis, I will describe that activation of the pro-plasticity protein ERK is an important process for the regulation of not only sleep but also in maintaining synapses such that activation of ERK is critical for the increase in synapses seen following social enrichment and sleep loss and in the behavioral consequences of sleep deprivation and social enrichment.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Paul J Shaw

Committee Members

Thomas Baranski, Robert Gereau, Paul Gray, Erik Herzog, Paul Taghert


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/K7DF6P57

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