Investigating the Effects of Environmental Enrichment on a Drosophila Model of Tau Toxicity
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Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other tauopathies are characterized pathologically by neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) composed of the microtubule-associated protein tau. These tangles correlate strongly with regional cell death, and are particularly prominent in the cortex and hippocampus of AD patients. Considerable scientific evidence suggests that environmental enrichment has beneficial effects on the plasticity of the brain, and that these effects are often observed in areas congruent to the brain regions affected by AD and related tauopathies. Alterations in formation of amyloid plaques, the second major pathological hallmark of AD, due to environmental enrichment are well documented in previous studies, but few studies have explored the effects of environmental enrichment on tau toxicity, and none have done so in the fruit fly. The present study examines the effects of environmental enrichment on the toxicity of tau in a Drosophila model of tauopathy through a series of lifespan experiments. Flies expressing a transgenic, tauopathy-associated, mutant form of tau, and non-transgenic control flies, were aged in either standard housing conditions, conditions with increased space per fly, or environmentally enriched conditions. Environmental enrichment significantly increased the lifespan of tau transgenic flies, suggesting a physiological, ameliorating effect of environmental enrichment on tau toxicity.
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