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Dev Neurobiol. 2007 May;67(6):778-91.

Age-related changes in climbing behavior and neural circuit physiology in Drosophila.

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Section of Neurobiology, Institute for Neuroscience, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78712, USA.


Identifying the cellular and molecular basis for functional decline remains key to understanding aging. To this end, we have characterized age-dependent changes in climbing and the electrophysiology of the giant fiber circuitry in wild type (Wt) and mutant flies with altered lifespan (methuselah and fragile-X). Our data demonstrate a gradual decline in climbing in Wt and methuselah flies aged 5-45 days. In contrast, fragile-X flies climbed poorly even at 5 days and failed completely at 45 days. We then examined whether synaptic transmission to indirect flight muscles along the giant fiber circuit was altered with aging. At 5 days, the dorsal longitudinal muscle (DLM) in Wt flies followed high frequency stimulation well (at 130 Hz or above). At 35 and 45 days, these flies only followed 60-80 Hz. Methuselah flies did not follow stimuli as well as the Wt flies did at 5 and 25 days, but they were similar to Wt flies at older ages. Fragile-X flies responded poorly even at 5 days (40 Hz) and worsened at 35 days (30 Hz). Unlike DLMs, the tergotrochanteral muscle followed high frequency stimuli relatively well in all genotypes, suggesting that the peripheral interneuron along the DLM pathway or the DLM muscular synapse is prone to age-dependent functional decline. These studies reveal subcellular structures as potential targets of aging, indicating that the giant fiber pathway can be used as a model circuit for quantitative studies of aging in flies as well as fly models of age-related human neurological disorders.

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