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Postgraduate Education Corner: Contemporary Reviews in Sleep Medicine |

Genetic and Immunologic Aspects of Sleep and Sleep DisordersGenetic and Immunologic Aspects of Sleep

James M. Parish, MD, FCCP
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From the Center for Sleep Medicine, Division of Pulmonary Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, AZ.

Correspondence to: James M. Parish, MD, FCCP, Division of Pulmonary Medicine, Mayo Clinic, 13400 E Shea Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ 85259; e-mail parish.james@mayo.edu.


Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians. See online for more details.


Chest. 2013;143(5):1489-1499. doi:10.1378/chest.12-1219
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The study of genetics is providing new and exciting insights into the pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment of disease. Both normal sleep and several types of sleep disturbances have been found to have significant genetic influences, as have traits of normal sleep, such as those evident in EEG patterns and the circadian sleep-wake cycle. The circadian sleep-wake cycle is based on a complex feedback loop of genetic transcription over a 24-h cycle. Restless legs syndrome (RLS) and periodic limb movements in sleep (PLMS) have familial aggregation, and several genes have a strong association with them. Recent genome-wide association studies have identified single nucleotide polymorphisms linked to RLS/PLMS, although none has a definite functional correlation. Narcolepsy/cataplexy are associated with HLA DQB1*0602 and a T-cell receptor α locus, although functional correlations have not been evident. Obstructive sleep apnea is a complex disorder involving multiple traits, such as anatomy of the oropharynx, ventilatory control, and traits associated with obesity. Although there is clear evidence of familial aggregation in the obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, no specific gene or locus has been identified for it. Angiotensin-converting enzyme has been proposed as a risk variant, but evidence is weak. Fatal familial insomnia and advanced sleep phase syndrome are sleep disorders with a definite genetic basis.

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