Hypocretin underlies the evolution of sleep loss in the Mexican cavefish. Academic Article uri icon


  • The duration of sleep varies dramatically between species, yet little is known about the genetic basis or evolutionary factors driving this variation in behavior. The Mexican cavefish, Astyanax mexicanus, exists as surface populations that inhabit rivers, and multiple cave populations with convergent evolution on sleep loss. The number of Hypocretin/Orexin (HCRT)-positive hypothalamic neurons is increased significantly in cavefish, and HCRT is upregulated at both the transcript and protein levels. Pharmacological or genetic inhibition of HCRT signaling increases sleep in cavefish, suggesting enhanced HCRT signaling underlies the evolution of sleep loss. Ablation of the lateral line or starvation, manipulations that selectively promote sleep in cavefish, inhibit hcrt expression in cavefish while having little effect on surface fish. These findings provide the first evidence of genetic and neuronal changes that contribute to the evolution of sleep loss, and support a conserved role for HCRT in sleep regulation.

published proceedings

  • Elife

altmetric score

  • 139.366

author list (cited authors)

  • Jaggard, J. B., Stahl, B. A., Lloyd, E., Prober, D. A., Duboue, E. R., & Keene, A. C.

citation count

  • 79

complete list of authors

  • Jaggard, James B||Stahl, Bethany A||Lloyd, Evan||Prober, David A||Duboue, Erik R||Keene, Alex C

publication date

  • February 2018


published in