Genes may determine whether you are a ‘lark’ or an ‘owl’, according to a new study which discovered nearly 80 genes in fruit flies associated with ‘morningness’ and ‘eveningness’.
Researchers from the University of Leicester identified fly strains that exhibit morning- and evening-like behaviour.
“Most people find that their performance is at peak at specific times of day. A great variation in this diurnal preference is found, from early risers ‘larks’ to late night ‘owls’,” said researcher Dr Eran Tauber, Lecturer in Molecular Evolution at the University of Leicester.
“The impact of this preference (‘chronotype’) on health and behaviour is well documented, but the molecular basis is largely unknown.
“In this new study, we have used fruit-flies, whose gene clocks are very similar to human, to get a first insight into the molecular basis of ‘morningness/eveningness’ preference.
“Because this genetic system is so similar between insects and human, there is a good chance that some of the genes that we have identified in flies, would be also important for diurnal preference in humans.
“Most of these genes are present in the mammalian genome and would therefore be useful starting points for research in human.
“For example, a relatively large number of genes were associated with a molecular signalling pathway called MAPK which is also present in human and is implicated in the development of many cancers,” Tauber said.
The study could pave the way for better diagnostics, and ultimately personal medicine, where larks and owls will receive their tailored therapies, researchers said.
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Neurology.