Title

Pruning the Garden of the Nervous System: Neurodegeneration in Drosophila

Faculty Advisor

Rickoll, Wayne

Area of Study

Science and Mathematics

Publication Date

Summer 2015

Abstract

In general, mitochondrial structural alterations occur early in programmed cell death, apoptosis. α-spectrin and Bruchpilot are two proteins required for synapse formation in Drosophila melanogaster. The purpose of this study was to identify if neurodegeneration can be caused by a knockdown of α-spectrin, if apoptosis is observed in degenerating neurons, and if Bruchpilot localization was affected by a decrease in functional α-spectrin. This study utilized GAL4 UAS α-spectrin RNAi Drosophila to knockdown α-spectrin. The musculature and nerves from both these and WT Drosophila were dissected out and imaged under scanning electron microscopy (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and epifluorescent microscopy using a monoclonal antibody specific for Bruchpilot. The SEM indicated that an α-spectrin knockdown causes a separation of the nerve from the muscle at the synapse. Images from TEM showed a degeneration of neuron filament organization as well as disorganized mitochondrial membranes, signifying apoptosis was underway. Bruchpilot localization under epifluorescence was altered in the α-spectrin knockdown, showing that a decrease in α-spectrin affects the patterning of Bruchpilot in the synapse. These findings could have implications in finding treatments for human neurodegenerative diseases like spinocerebellar ataxia type 5.

Publisher

University of Puget Sound

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