Drosophila as an Animal Model for Neurodegenerative Diseases

The goal: Understanding the etiology and pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases without the ethical problems often associated with vertebrate animal models. These projects are done in collaboration with medical-oriented groups.

Behavior turns out to be a useful and sensitive early indicator of neurodegenerative processes in the nervous system of flies. In several different studies we could prove that behavioral parameters went bad long before neurodegeneration became manifest in neuroanatomical preparations.

Example for an age-related decay in the escape response called „fast phototaxis“ following pan-neuronal expression of Drosophila amyloid-ß peptide. Adapted from Carmine-Simmen et al. 2009.


Serotoneric system:

  • Ries, A.-S., Hermanns, T., Poeck, B., and Strauss, R. (2017) Serotonin modulates a depression-like state in Drosophila responsive to lithium treatment. Nature Communications, 8: 15738. Link: http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms15738

Alzheimer’s disease

  • Poeck, B., Strauss, R., Kretzschmar, D. (2011). Analysis of amyloid precursor protein function in Drosophila melanogaster. Exp. Brain Res. 217: 413-421.
  • Carmine-Simmen, K., Proctor, T., Tschäpe, J., Poeck, B., Triphan, T., Strauss, R. and Kretzschmar,  D. (2009). Neurotoxic effects induced by the Drosophila Amyloid-β peptide suggest a conserved toxic function. Neurobiology of Disease 33: 274–281.

Dopaminergic system:

  • Riemensperger, T., Isabel, G., Coulom, H., Neuser, K., Seugnet, L., Kume, K., Iché-Torres, M., Cassar, M., Strauss, R., Preat, T., Hirsh, J., Birman, S. (2011). Behavioral consequences of dopamine deficiency in the Drosophila central nervous system. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 108(2), 834-839.

Polyglutamin diseases:

  • Kretzschmar, D., Tschäpe, J., Bettencourt Da Cruz, A., Asan, E., Poeck, B., Strauss, R., Pflugfelder, G.O. (2004). Glial and neuronal expression of polyglutamine proteins induce behavioural changes and aggregate formation in Drosophila. Glia, 49: 59-72.