Hereditary spastic paraplegias (HSPs) are a group of neurodegenerarive diseases characterized by progressive weakness and spasticity of the lower limbs. Dominant mutations in the human SPG4 gene, encoding spastin, are responsible for the most frequent form of HSP. Spastin is an ATPase that binds microtubules and localizes to the spindle pole and distal axon in mammalian cell lines. Furthermore, its Drosophila homolog, Drosophila spastin (Dspastin), has been recently shown to regulate microtubule stability and synaptic function at the Drosophila larval neuromuscular junction. Here we report the generation of a spastin-linked HSP animal model and show that in Drosophila, neural knockdown of Dspastin and, conversely, neural overexpression of Dspastin containing a conserved pathogenic mutation both recapitulate some phenotypic aspects of the human disease, including adult onset, locomotor impairment, and neurodegeneration. At the subcellular level, neuronal expression of both Dspastin RNA interference and mutant Dspastin cause an excessive stabilization of microtubules in the neuromuscular junction synapse. In addition, we provide evidence that administration of the microtubule targeting drug vinblastine significantly attenuates these phenotypes in vivo. Our findings demonstrate that loss of spastin function elicits HSP-like phenotypes in Drosophila, provide novel insights into the molecular mechanism of spastin mutations, and raise the possibility that therapy with Vinca alkaloids may be efficacious in spastin-associated HSP and other disorders related to microtubule dysfunction.
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