"We thought the cloud would be activating transcription, but in fact it was doing the opposite," she said. "Most of the genes were dampened by the cloud. This long non-coding RNA was acting as a decoy, pulling the active transcription factors away from genes and keeping them from being expressed."
As a result, losing snoRNAs and 116HG causes a chain reaction, eliminating the RNA cloud and allowing circadian and metabolic genes to get turned on during sleep periods, when they should be dampened down. This underlies a complex cycle in which the RNA cloud grew during sleep periods (daytime for nocturnal mice), turning down genes associated with energy use, and receded during waking periods, allowing these genes to be expressed. Mice without the 116HG gene lacked the benefit of this neuronal cloud, causing greater energy expenditure during sleep.
The researchers said that the work provides a clearer picture of why children with Prader-Willi syndrome can't sleep or feel satiated and may change therapeutic approaches. For example, many such children have been treated with growth hormone because of short stature, but this actually may boost other aspects of the disease.
"People had thought the kids weren't sleeping at night because of the sleep apnea caused by obesity," said LaSalle. "What this study shows is that the diurnal metabolism is central to the disorder, and that the obesity may be as a result of that. If you can work with that, you could improve therapies, for example figuring out the best times to administer medications."
|Contact: Phyllis Brown|
University of California - Davis Health System