Impaired Sense of Smell in a Drosophila Parkinson's Model

Simone Poddighe, Krishna Moorthi Bhat, Maria Dolores Setzu, Paolo Solla, Anna Maria Angioy, Roberto Marotta, Roberta Ruffilli, Francesco Marrosu, Anna Liscia

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31 Scopus citations


Parkinson's disease (PD) is one of the most common neurodegenerative disease characterized by the clinical triad: tremor, akinesia and rigidity. Several studies have suggested that PD patients show disturbances in olfaction at the earliest onset of the disease. The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is becoming a powerful model organism to study neurodegenerative diseases. We sought to use this system to explore olfactory dysfunction, if any, in PINK1 mutants, which is a model for PD. PINK1 mutants display many important diagnostic symptoms of the disease such as akinetic motor behavior. In the present study, we describe for the first time, to the best of our knowledge, neurophysiological and neuroanatomical results concerning the olfactory function in PINK1 mutant flies. Electroantennograms were recorded in response to synthetic and natural volatiles (essential oils) from groups of PINK1 mutant adults at three different time points in their life cycle: one from 3-5 day-old flies, from 15-20 and from 27-30 days. The results obtained were compared with the same age-groups of wild type flies. We found that mutant adults showed a decrease in the olfactory response to 1-hexanol, α-pinene and essential oil volatiles. This olfactory response in mutant adults decreased even more as the flies aged. Immunohistological analysis of the antennal lobes in these mutants revealed structural abnormalities, especially in the expression of Bruchpilot protein, a marker for synaptic active zones. The combination of electrophysiological and morphological results suggests that the altered synaptic organization may be due to a neurodegenerative process. Our results indicate that this model can be used as a tool for understanding PD pathogensis and pathophysiology. These results help to explore the potential of using olfaction as a means of monitoring PD progression and developing new treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere73156
JournalPloS one
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 29 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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