Inactivation of Drosophila DJ-1 leads to impairments of oxidative stress response and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/Akt signaling
Photoreceptor Cells, Invertebrate
Parkinson's disease (PD) is the most common movement disorder characterized by dopaminergic dysfunction and degeneration. The cause of most PD cases is unknown, although postmortem studies have implicated the involvement of oxidative stress. The identification of familial PD-associated genes offers the opportunity to study mechanisms of PD pathogenesis in model organisms. Here, we show that DJ-1A, a Drosophila homologue of the familial PD-associated gene DJ-1, plays an essential role in oxidative stress response and neuronal maintenance. Inhibition of DJ-1A function through RNA interference (RNAi) results in cellular accumulation of reactive oxygen species, organismal hypersensitivity to oxidative stress, and dysfunction and degeneration of dopaminergic and photoreceptor neurons. To identify other genes that may interact with DJ-1A in regulating cell survival, we performed genetic interaction studies and identified components of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt-signaling pathway as specific modulators of DJ-1A RNAi-induced neurodegeneration. PI3K signaling suppresses DJ-1A RNAi phenotypes at least in part by reducing cellular reactive oxygen species levels. Consistent with the genetic interaction results, we also found reduced phosphorylation of Akt in DJ-1A RNAi animals, indicating an impairment of PI3K/Akt signaling by DJ-1A down-regulation. Together with recent findings in mammalian systems, these results implicate impairments of PI3K/Akt signaling and oxidative stress response in DJ-1-associated disease pathogenesis. We also observed impairment of PI3K/Akt signaling in the fly parkin model of PD, hinting at a common molecular event in the pathogenesis of PD. Manipulation of PI3K/Akt signaling may therefore offer therapeutic benefits for the treatment of PD.