by Krishna Melnattur, Paul Shaw
The balance of sleep and wake is plastic and changes to meet environmental demands. Mechanisms that allow an animal to suppress sleep and maintain waking in potentially adverse situations could serve adaptive functions in evolution. The fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, is well poised as a system in which to explore these questions. The environment changes sleep and wake in flies, e.g., starvation induces waking in Drosophila as it does in many animals. Further, the sophisticated neurobiological toolkit available to Drosophila researchers gives the fly a great advantage as a system to investigate the precise neurobiological mechanisms underlying these adaptive changes. In a paper in this issue of PLOS Biology, Yurgel and colleagues elegantly exploit the advantages of the Drosophila model to map starvation-induced wakefulness to a single pair of peptidergic neurons and their partners.