Sleep is associated with significant genetic and epigenetic changes, suggesting the idea that its purpose is to regulate fundamental physiological and behavioural functions. Our group is systematically investigating, for the first time, the role of a genome-diffused mechanism, namely genomic imprinting, in sleep regulation. Genomic imprinting is an epigenetic mechanism that results in allele-specific expression of some genes according to parental origin and, in vertebrates, is unique to mammals. Sleep is the longest state in development (i.e., it occupies 2/3 of the day in newborns) and it depends on profound developmental processes; genomic imprinting is also crucial in developmental growth, neurogenesis and brain plasticity. We are at the early stage of the exploration of what we could call ‘the genomic imprinting hypothesis of sleep’. There are several aspects of this epigenetic phenomenon that must be investigated. Our group is addressing the link between sleep and imprinting investigating the role of specific imprinted genes and, in general, exploring parent-of-origin effects.
Genetics and Epigenetics of Behavior
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