Circadian (~24 hour) clocks are endogenous mechanisms that time the recurring, daily activities observed in most organisms. These clocks are genetically regulated, and generate biochemical oscillations within individual cells composing most tissues. Our work began in Drosophila melanogaster, where we identified a small group of genes that are principal components of an intracellular circadian clock. Mutations in any of these genes can lengthen or shorten the period of behavioral and other circadian rhythms or can abolish the rhythms altogether. The abundance of proteins encoded by several of these genes changes rhythmically with a circadian period. Mutations affecting any of these genes have corresponding effects on behavioral rhythms as well as the molecular rhythms of hundreds of clock-regulated genes that are expressed in most organ systems. Orthologous genes regulate mammalian, including human, circadian rhythms, so that today our lab studies the action of these genes and proteins in a variety of biological models. We are also currently studying prominent rhythmic behaviors that are controlled by circadian clock with a particular focus on sleep. Recently our laboratory has searched for and identified genes that affect the homeostatic regulation of sleep in Drosophila. This research has uncovered specific neurons whose activity promotes sleep.
About the Speaker
Dr. Young received his undergraduate degree in biology in 1971 and his Ph.D. in genetics in 1975, both from The University of Texas, Austin. Following postdoctoral work in biochemistry at the Stanford University School of Medicine, he was appointed assistant professor at Rockefeller in 1978 as part of The Rockefeller University Fellows Program. He was named associate professor in 1984 and professor in 1988, and from 1987 to 1996 he was an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. From 1991 to 2001 Young headed the Rockefeller unit of the National Science Foundation’s Science and Technology Center for Biological Timing. Young was named the university’s Vice President for Academic Affairs and Richard and Jeanne Fisher Professor in 2004.
Dr. Young is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. He is a recipient of the 2013 Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine, the 2013 Wiley Prize in Biomedical Science, the 2012 Canada Gairdner International Award, the 2012 Massry Prize, the 2011 Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize for Biology or Biochemistry and the 2009 Neuroscience Prize of the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation.