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Curr Biol. 2006 May 23;16(10):1026-33.

Modeling clinically heterogeneous presenilin mutations with transgenic Drosophila.

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Laboratory of Protein Dynamics and Signaling, NCI-Frederick, National Institutes of Health, Frederick, Maryland 21702, USA.


To assess the potential of Drosophila to analyze clinically graded aspects of human disease, we developed a transgenic fly model to characterize Presenilin (PS) gene mutations that cause early-onset familial Alzheimer's disease (FAD). FAD exhibits a wide range in severity defined by ages of onset from 24 to 65 years . PS FAD mutants have been analyzed in mammalian cell culture, but conflicting data emerged concerning correlations between age of onset and PS biochemical activity . Choosing from over 130 FAD mutations in Presenilin-1, we introduced 14 corresponding mutations at conserved residues in Drosophila Presenilin (Psn) and assessed their biological activity in transgenic flies by using genetic, molecular, and statistical methods. Psn FAD mutant activities were tightly linked to their age-of-onset values, providing evidence that disease severity in humans primarily reflects differences in PS mutant lesions rather than contributions from unlinked genetic or environmental modifiers. Our study establishes a precedent for using transgenic Drosophila to study clinical heterogeneity in human disease.

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