Mechanosensory Stimulation via Nanchung Expressing Neurons Can Induce Daytime Sleep in Drosophila

J Neurosci. 2021 Nov 10;41(45):9403-9418. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0400-21.2021. Epub 2021 Oct 11.


The neuronal and genetic bases of sleep, a phenomenon considered crucial for well-being of organisms, has been under investigation using the model organism Drosophila melanogaster Although sleep is a state where sensory threshold for arousal is greater, it is known that certain kinds of repetitive sensory stimuli, such as rocking, can indeed promote sleep in humans. Here we report that orbital motion-aided mechanosensory stimulation promotes sleep of male and female Drosophila, independent of the circadian clock, but controlled by the homeostatic system. Mechanosensory receptor nanchung (Nan)-expressing neurons in the chordotonal organs mediate this sleep induction: flies in which these neurons are either silenced or ablated display significantly reduced sleep induction on mechanosensory stimulation. Transient activation of the Nan-expressing neurons also enhances sleep levels, confirming the role of these neurons in sleep induction. We also reveal that certain regions of the antennal mechanosensory and motor center in the brain are involved in conveying information from the mechanosensory structures to the sleep centers. Thus, we show, for the first time, that a circadian clock-independent pathway originating from peripherally distributed mechanosensors can promote daytime sleep of flies Drosophila melanogasterSIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Our tendency to fall asleep in moving vehicles or the practice of rocking infants to sleep suggests that slow rhythmic movement can induce sleep, although we do not understand the mechanistic basis of this phenomenon. We find that gentle orbital motion can induce behavioral quiescence even in flies, a highly genetically tractable system for sleep studies. We demonstrate that this is indeed true sleep based on its rapid reversibility by sensory stimulation, enhanced arousal threshold, and homeostatic control. Furthermore, we demonstrate that mechanosensory neurons expressing a TRPV channel nanchung, located in the antennae and chordotonal organs, mediate orbital motion-induced sleep by communicating with antennal mechanosensory motor centers, which in turn may project to sleep centers in the brain.

Keywords: chordotonal organs; mechanosensation; nanchung; orbital motion; sleep; sleep rebound.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism*
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology*
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Transient Receptor Potential Channels / metabolism*


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Nan protein, Drosophila
  • Transient Receptor Potential Channels