Investigating the Effect of Neuronal Tau Expression on Aggression in a Drosophila melanogaster Model of Alzheimer's Disease
Figueroa, Jessica Suzanne
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Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the aggregation and hyperphosphorylation of the microtubule-associated protein, tau. It is characterized by a variety of cognitive and behavioral symptoms, including aggression. However, the extent to which tau pathology underlies aggression remains to be determined. This line of research explores how aggression is affected by the expression of tau in neurons in a Drosophila melanogaster model of AD. We hypothesize that the expression of human wild-type tau in adult Drosophila will result in altered aggression levels in adult, male flies. In this study, we utilized the GAL4-UAS system to exclusively express human tau protein in Drosophila neurons, and assayed aggression in fighting pairs of tau-expressing flies or control flies, without tau. A standard Drosophila aggression assay was used to record fights and quantify parameters of aggressive behavior in 2-day and 5-day old flies. In 2-day old flies, we observed no significant difference in aggressive behavior. In 5-day old flies, we observed a significant decrease in aggressive behavior in tau-expressing flies compared to control flies. These results suggest that age-dependent increases of tau protein expression in neurons alters aggression in Drosophila, but it is unclear how this effect is mediated. Future experiments utilizing cell-type specific expression of tau and other behavioral assays should further help define the relationship between tau expression and aggression in this Drosophila model of AD.