An enzyme inside nerve cells that is crucial for nerve fibre degeneration in fruit flies and mice is identified in a paper online in Nature Neuroscience this week.
Degeneration of the axon fibres that connect nerve cells in the brain is common after brain injury and in many neurological diseases. This research may therefore prove important for treatment of hereditary neuropathy, glaucoma, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease.? ?
Aaron DiAntonio and colleagues removed the antennae of fruit flies, thereby severing the axons of smell neurons in flies. In normal flies, the remaining axon fragments rapidly deteriorated, but in flies lacking the enzyme known as DLK, the axons were preserved. Similarly, the cutting of sensory nerve cell axons in mice usually leads to rapid degeneration, but if the nerve cells lacked DLK, their axons did not decompose after being cut.