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A Perfect Day for Zebrafish: Neuromodulation of Sleep in a Diurnal Vertebrate


Chiu, Cindy Nicole (2014) A Perfect Day for Zebrafish: Neuromodulation of Sleep in a Diurnal Vertebrate. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/Z9FN1452.


Every day, we shift among various states of sleep and arousal to meet the many demands of our bodies and environment. A central puzzle in neurobiology is how the brain controls these behavioral states, which are essential to an animal's well-being and survival. Mammalian models have predominated sleep and arousal research, although in the past decade, invertebrate models have made significant contributions to our understanding of the genetic underpinnings of behavioral states. More recently, the zebrafish (Danio rerio), a diurnal vertebrate, has emerged as a promising model system for sleep and arousal research.

In this thesis, I describe two studies on sleep/arousal pathways that I conducted using zebrafish, and I discuss how the findings can be combined in future projects to advance our understanding of vertebrate sleep/arousal pathways. In the first study, I discovered a neuropeptide that regulates zebrafish sleep and arousal as a result of a large-scale effort to identify molecules that regulate behavioral states. Taking advantage of facile zebrafish genetics, I constructed mutants for the three known receptors of this peptide and identified the one receptor that exclusively mediates the observed behavioral effects. I further show that the peptide exerts its behavioral effects independently of signaling at a key module of a neuroendocrine signaling pathway. This finding contradicts the hypothesis put forth in mammalian systems that the peptide acts through the classical neuroendocrine pathway; our data further generate new testable hypotheses for determining the central nervous system or alternative neuroendocrine pathways involved.

Second, I will present the development of a chemigenetic method to non-invasively manipulate neurons in the behaving zebrafish. I validated this technique by expressing and inducing the chemigenetic tool in a restricted population of sleep-regulating neurons in the zebrafish. As predicted by established models of this vertebrate sleep regulator, chemigenetic activation of these neurons induced hyperactivity, whereas chemigenetic ablation of these neurons induced increased sleep behavior. Given that light is a potent modulator of behavior in zebrafish, our proof-of-principle data provide a springboard for future studies of sleep/arousal and other light-dependent behaviors to interrogate genetically-defined populations of neurons independently of optogenetic tools.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:sleep; arousal; Neuromedin U; Orexin; Hypocretin; zebrafish neurobiology; Corticotropin releasing hormone; Corticotropin releasing factor
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Biology and Biological Engineering
Major Option:Neurobiology
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Prober, David A.
Thesis Committee:
  • Sternberg, Paul W. (chair)
  • Prober, David A.
  • Siapas, Athanassios G.
  • Fraser, Scott E.
Defense Date:22 May 2014
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:06102014-154051538
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription DOIArticle adapted for ch. 1
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8514
Deposited By: Cindy Chiu
Deposited On:03 Oct 2016 18:43
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 00:05

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