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Rhodiola rosea improves lifespan, locomotion, and neurodegeneration in a Drosophila melanogaster model of Huntington’s disease
20 December 2019 (online)
Huntington’s disease (HD) is a dominant, late-onset disease characterized by choreiform movements, cognitive decline, and personality disturbance. It is caused by a polyglutamine repeat expansion in the Huntington’s disease gene encoding for the Huntingtin protein (Htt) which functions as a scaffold for selective macroautophagy. Mutant Htt (mHtt) disrupts vesicle trafficking and prevents autophagosome fusion with lysosomes, thus deregulating autophagy in neuronal cells, leading to cell death. Autophagy has been described as a therapeutic target for HD, owing to the key role Htt plays in the cellular process. Rhodiola rosea, a plant extract used in traditional medicine in Europe and Asia, has been shown to attenuate aging in the fly and other model species. It has also been shown to inhibit the mTOR pathway and induce autophagy in bladder cancer cell lines. We hypothesized that R. rosea, by inducing autophagy, may improve the phenotype of a Huntington’s disease model of the fly. Flies expressing HttQ93 which exhibit decreased lifespan, impaired locomotion, and increased neurodegeneration were supplemented with R. rosea extract, and assays testing lifespan, locomotion, and pseudopupil degeneration provided quantitative measures of improvement. Based on our observations that the extract improves lifespan, locomotion, and neurodegeneration, R. rosea may be further evaluated as a potential therapy for Huntington’s disease.