Debilitating neurodegenerative conditions with metabolic origins affect millions of individuals worldwide. Still, for most of these neurometabolic disorders there are neither cures nor disease- modifying therapies, and novel animal models are needed for elucidation of disease pathology and identification of potential therapeutic agents. To date, metabolic neurodegenerative disease has been modeled in animals with only limited success, in part because existing models constitute analyses of single mutants and have thus overlooked potential redundancy within metabolic gene pathways associated with disease. Here we present the first analysis of a very long chain acyl-CoA synthetase double mutant. We show that the Drosophila bubblegum (bgm) and double bubble (dbb) genes have overlapping functions, and that the consequences of bubblegum double bubble double knockout in the fly brain are profound, affecting behavior and brain morphology, and providing the best paradigm to date for an animal model of Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), a fatal childhood neurodegenerative disease associated with the accumulation of very long chain fatty acids. Using this more fully penetrant model of disease to interrogate brain morphology at the level of electron microscopy, we show that dysregulation of fatty acid metabolism via disruption of ACS function in vivo is causal of neurodegenerative pathologies evident in both neuronal cells and their support cell populations, and leads ultimately to lytic cell death in affected areas of the brain. Finally, in an extension of our model system to the study of human disease, we describe our identification of a leukodystrophy patient who harbors a rare mutation in a human homologue of Bgm and Dbb: the SLC27a6-encoded very-long-chain acyl-CoA synthetase.
- Received July 8, 2015.
- Accepted February 17, 2016.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd
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