To advance the understanding of sleep regulation, we screened for sleep-promoting cells and identified neurons expressing neuropeptide Y-like short neuropeptide F (sNPF). Sleep induction by sNPF meets all relevant criteria. Rebound sleep following sleep deprivation is reduced by activation of sNPF neurons, and flies experience negative sleep rebound upon cessation of sNPF neuronal stimulation, indicating that sNPF provides an important signal to the sleep homeostat. Only a subset of sNPF-expressing neurons, which includes the small ventrolateral clock neurons, is sleep promoting. Their release of sNPF increases sleep consolidation in part by suppressing the activity of wake-promoting large ventrolateral clock neurons, and suppression of neuronal firing may be the general response to sNPF receptor activation. sNPF acutely increases sleep without altering feeding behavior, which it affects only on a much longer time scale. The profound effect of sNPF on sleep indicates that it is an important sleep-promoting molecule.
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