Faculty Advisor

Rickoll, Wayne

Area of Study

Science and Mathematics

Publication Date

Summer 2015


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.


University of Puget Sound

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