Genomic Imprinting Modulates Sleep: Towards a Neurodevelopmental Hypothesis of Sleep

Sleep, circadian rhythms and cognitive processes are evolutionary well-conserved functions that are widely shared in the animal kingdom. Genomic imprinting is an epigenetic mechanism that results in allele-specific expression of some genes according to parental origin. Clinical and experimental evidence suggest that genomic imprinting exerts a pivotal role in various physiological measures of sleep, periodic oscillations and cognitive performance. For example, syndromes such as Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) and Angelman syndrome (AS) are both characterized by opposing imprinting profiles and opposing sleep phenotypes.   So far, the fundamental question of whether genomic imprinting has a direct role in sleep and sleep-related brain processes, has remained elusive. To address this crucial question, we have begun to study sleep, biological clocks and cognition in mouse models with an altered parent-of-origin expression profile. We collected evidence for significant effects of imprinting in neurodevelopmental mechanisms that form the mature structure of brain functions. We believe that genomic imprinting has a crucial role in neurodevelopmental processes that sets the background for brain functions and that this is due to an intrigued mechanism that involve the monoallelic nature of imprinted genes and the effects on genetic noise across neuronal networks.

Biosketch or research interests Valter Tucci is a Senior Group Leader at the Italian Institute of Technology and Head of the Neurobehavioral Genetics group. Before joining the IIT, he worked at the University of Padua and Bologna (Italy), at the Boston University and the MIT (USA), and at the MRC Mammalian Genetics Unit in Harwell (UK). Valter Tucci studied sleep physiology and cognitive processes in non-human primates, zebrafish and mice. Whilst he was studying the genetics of mouse behavior and circadian rhythms, he developed a keen interest in epigenetics. Later, the link between epigenetic mechanisms and physiological and behavioral processes became the major focus of his research. Currently the Tucci lab is actively investigating parent-of-origin mechanisms in brain functions by using behavioural, computational, electrophysiological and molecular/genetics approaches. Valter Tucci participated in several EU funded consortia in the field of mouse genetics (e.g., EUMORPHIA, EUMODIC, PHENOSCALE).

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Dr Gavin Kelsey
Brian Heap Room