alex keene
Alex Keene

Professor & Department Head

Keene Lab Website

Fax: 979-845-2891
Phone: 458-1365

3258 TAMU
Butler Hall Rm 100

Butler Hall Rm 201

Joined the Department in 2021

  • B.Sc. University of Massachusetts-Amherst, 2002
  • Ph.D. Biomedical Sciences, University of Massachusetts Medical School, 2006

Neural regulation of sleep, appetite, and energy homeostasis is critical to an animal’s survival and under stringent evolutionary pressure. Flies, like mammals, suppress sleep when starved, providing a system to interrogate interactions between sleep and metabolism. We have performed a large genetic screens to identify novel regulators of sleep-metabolism interactions, and are currently investigating the genes and neural circuits that integrate these processes. As a complementary approach, we have been working to establish Mexican cavefish as a model for the evolution of sleep in a nutrient-poor environment. We have generated comparative brain atlases and whole-brain functional imaging approaches that have identified a reorganization of the hypothalamus and increased slow wave sleep intensity in cavefish. Together this system has potential to identify conserved genetic, physiological, and anatomical mechanisms associated with variable sleep

  1. Palermo, J, Keene, AC, DiAngelo, JR. Expression of a constitutively active insulin receptor in Drosulfakinin (Dsk) neurons regulates metabolism and sleep in Drosophila. Biochem Biophys Rep. 2022;30 :101280. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrep.2022.101280. PubMed PMID:35600902 PubMed Central PMC9115315.
  2. Brown, EB, Klok, J, Keene, AC. Measuring metabolic rate in single flies during sleep and waking states via indirect calorimetry. J Neurosci Methods. 2022;376 :109606. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2022.109606. PubMed PMID:35483506 .
  3. Patch, A, Paz, A, Holt, KJ, Duboué, ER, Keene, AC, Kowalko, JE et al.. Kinematic analysis of social interactions deconstructs the evolved loss of schooling behavior in cavefish. PLoS One. 2022;17 (4):e0265894. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0265894. PubMed PMID:35385509 PubMed Central PMC8985933.
  4. Moran, RL, Jaggard, JB, Roback, EY, Kenzior, A, Rohner, N, Kowalko, JE et al.. Hybridization underlies localized trait evolution in cavefish. iScience. 2022;25 (2):103778. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2022.103778. PubMed PMID:35146393 PubMed Central PMC8819016.
  5. Erickson, OA, Cole, RB, Isaacs, JM, Alvarez-Clare, S, Arnold, J, Augustus-Wallace, A et al.. "How Do We Do This at a Distance?!" A Descriptive Study of Remote Undergraduate Research Programs during COVID-19. CBE Life Sci Educ. 2022;21 (1):ar1. doi: 10.1187/cbe.21-05-0125. PubMed PMID:34978923 .
  6. Murakami, K, Palermo, J, Stanhope, BA, Gibbs, AG, Keene, AC. A screen for sleep and starvation resistance identifies a wake-promoting role for the auxiliary channel unc79. G3 (Bethesda). 2021;11 (8):. doi: 10.1093/g3journal/jkab199. PubMed PMID:34849820 PubMed Central PMC8496288.
  7. Li, W, Keene, AC. Flies sense the world while sleeping. Nature. 2021;598 (7881):423-424. doi: 10.1038/d41586-021-02441-6. PubMed PMID:34588643 .
  8. Lloyd, E, Chhouk, B, Conith, AJ, Keene, AC, Albertson, RC. Diversity in rest-activity patterns among Lake Malawi cichlid fishes suggests a novel axis of habitat partitioning. J Exp Biol. 2021;224 (7):. doi: 10.1242/jeb.242186. PubMed PMID:34424981 .
  9. O'Gorman, M, Thakur, S, Imrie, G, Moran, RL, Choy, S, Sifuentes-Romero, I et al.. Pleiotropic function of the oca2 gene underlies the evolution of sleep loss and albinism in cavefish. Curr Biol. 2021;31 (16):3694-3701.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.06.077. PubMed PMID:34293332 .
  10. Botero, V, Stanhope, BA, Brown, EB, Grenci, EC, Boto, T, Park, SJ et al.. Neurofibromin regulates metabolic rate via neuronal mechanisms in Drosophila. Nat Commun. 2021;12 (1):4285. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-24505-x. PubMed PMID:34257279 PubMed Central PMC8277851.
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