2022 Student Research Conference:
35th Annual Student Research Conference

Understanding motoneuron cell death in ALS using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster

Morgan D. Payne*, Hunter J. Madison, Sarah G. Simons, Ezra G. Ortbals, and Mar Agelet
Dr. Brett A. Berke, Faculty Mentor

Motoneuronal cell death is a hallmark of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In ALS, all neurons contain the same mutations, yet motoneurons are preferentially affected. Mutations in the superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) gene are implicated in ~20% of familial ALS cases. The loss of SOD1 leads to the build-up of free radicals and oxidative stress. We hypothesize that motoneurons die due to oxidative stress synergizing with excessive action potential firing, which depletes ATP. Using Drosophila, we found that increasing neuronal activity and decreasing SOD1 expression reduced adult lifespan and increased cell death markers. We created green fluorescent protein (GFP) expressing animals to compare motoneuron cell death to a neuronal control population (mushroom body Kenyon cells). In larvae, we are looking at how this synergy affects the development of Kenyon cell and motoneuron structure. We expect this work to address, for the first time, cell type-dependent effects of ALS mutations.

Keywords: ALS, neurobiology, SOD1, cell death, drosophila

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Presentation Type: Poster Presentation

Session: 2-12
Location: SUB Activities Room
Time: 3:00

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