For a long time now, scientists have hoped to unravel the mystery behind diseases associated with aging with hopes that this may just explain how these diseases could be effectively treated or managed. Studies so far have shown that dysfunction in specific proteins in the Golgi apparatus which is responsible for sorting and packaging proteins may be implicated in the pathogenesis of some age-related diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. This theory has formed the basis of what we know about these diseases.
However, recent research by a team of researchers led by Professor Ioannis Nezis from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick has discovered a novel mechanism that attempts to explain the mechanism of age-related diseases. The findings of this research may just become the final piece that would solve the puzzle of age-related diseases and give clinicians an edge over them.
Exploring the Golgi apparatus of the fruit fly
In the study, researchers analyzed the process of autophagy in Drosophila melanogaster, also known as the fruit fly. This process is actually a repair process in which the cell consumes its organelles, thereby mopping off the defects which may have been built due to dysfunction.
Using gene editing, confocal, and electron microscopy, Professor Nezis, and his team successfully identified a new form of selective autophagy, termed Golgiphagy (how cells degrade the Golgi complex by autophagy) in the fruit flies.
They discovered that the interaction between short linear motifs called LIR motifs (LC3-interacting region) and the Atg8-family proteins was important for this selective autophagy to take place. An example of this LIR motif-containing protein that interacts with the Atg8 family protein is the Golgi Microtubule Associated Protein GMAP. Interestingly, this protein was also seen to be abnormally increased in Atg8a-LDS mutant Drosophila flies and is said to be responsible for their lower lifespan. They postulated that the GMAP through interaction with Atg8a was very crucial for Golgiphagy.
What we know as a disease is a result of a dysfunction in one or more cellular processes that impair the function of the cell. Over time, this dysfunction becomes evident in the tissue and organ system and is eventually characterized by signs and symptoms evident in the patient. The understanding of the cellular mechanisms that underlie a disease acts as a crucial step to understanding and approaching the disease in therapy to produce positive results. Researchers postulate that the results obtained from this study on the fruit fly give further answers to the questions that puzzle clinicians and for the clinician, this process gives a glimpse of the most effective therapy.
While several studies to better describe the process of autophagy in humans have been performed, this study to unravel the mystery behind autophagy in the drosophila melanogaster is the first of its kind, and represents a great achievement in the science community and would drastically change how we view age-related diseases.