When flies are made to lose a gene with links to Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), they suffer the same sleep disturbances and restlessness that human patients do. The findings reported online on May 31 in Current Biology strongly suggest a genetic basis for RLS, a condition in which patients complain of an irresistible urge to move that gets worse as they try to rest.
Scientists have discovered that mutations in the gene BTBD9, which is linked with restless legs syndrome (RLS) in humans, disturb sleep in fruit flies. The mutant flies wake up more often during sleep periods, which resembles a key feature of human RLS. The same mutations in BTBD9 also reduce levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the flies. Some kind of deficiency in dopamine signaling is thought to lie behind RLS in humans.