Sleep, a reversible quiescent state found in both invertebrate and vertebrate animals, disconnects animals from their environment and is highly regulated for coordination with wakeful activities, such as reproduction. The fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, has proven to be a valuable model for studying the regulation of sleep by circadian clock and homeostatic mechanisms. Here, we demonstrate that the sex peptide receptor (SPR) of Drosophila, known for its role in female reproduction, is also important in stabilizing sleep in both males and females. Mutants lacking either the SPR or its central ligand, myoinhibitory peptide (MIP), fall asleep normally, but have difficulty in maintaining a sleep-like state. Our analyses have mapped the SPR sleep function to pigment dispersing factor ( pdf) neurons, an arousal center in the insect brain. MIP downregulates intracellular cAMP levels in pdf neurons through the SPR. MIP is released centrally before and during night-time sleep, when the sleep drive is elevated. Sleep deprivation during the night facilitates MIP secretion from specific brain neurons innervating pdf neurons. Moreover, flies lacking either SPR or MIP cannot recover sleep after the night-time sleep deprivation. These results delineate a central neuropeptide circuit that stabilizes the sleep state by feeding a slow-acting inhibitory input into the arousal system and plays an important role in sleep homeostasis.
Sleep is a common trait in animals, from insects to mammals, and it needs to be coordinated with other critical activities such as feeding and reproduction. However, the mechanisms by which this is achieved are not fully understood. The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has become a key model organism for sleep research and it has been shown that reproduction is one of the factors that can modulate sleep in these animals. Researchers have observed that mating reduces the daytime sleep of female flies and shown that the seminal fluid protein Sex Peptide (SP), a ligand of the Sex Peptide Receptor (SPR) that is transferred to females during copulation, is responsible for this reduction of siesta sleep. Here, we investigated further the role of SPR in sleep regulation in Drosophila. We show that SPR is required for sleep stabilization in both sexes and that in mutant flies lacking SPR or its ligand myoinhibitory peptide (MIP) sleep is fragmented independently of reproduction. Unlike SP, MIP is expressed in the brain of both sexes and acts on SPR to silence specific neurons that keep flies awake, stabilizing sleep. Hence, our results reveal that SPR interacts with two distinct ligands to control different behaviors: SP for reproduction and MIP for sleep.