Altered circadian activity rhythms and sleep in mice devoid of prion protein

Nature. 1996 Apr 18;380(6575):639-42. doi: 10.1038/380639a0.


There is a wealth of data supporting a central role for the prion protein (PrP) in the neurodegenerative prion diseases of both humans and other species, yet the normal function of PrP, which is expressed at the cell surface of neurons and glial cells, is unknown. It has been speculated that neuropathology may be due to loss of normal function of PrP. Here we show that in mice devoid of PrP there is an alteration in both circadian activity rhythms and patterns. To our knowledge, this is the first null mutation that has been shown to affect sleep regulation and our results indicate that at least one of the inherited prion diseases, fatal familial insomnia, where there is a profound alteration in sleep and the daily rhythms of many hormones, may be related to the normal function of the prion protein.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Circadian Rhythm / genetics
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Motor Activity
  • Mutation
  • Prion Diseases / genetics
  • Prion Diseases / physiopathology
  • Prions* / genetics
  • Sleep / genetics
  • Sleep / physiology*


  • Prions