Advanced age is the greatest risk factor for neurodegenerative disorders, but the mechanisms that render the senescent brain vulnerable to disease are unclear. Glial immune responses provide neuroprotection in a variety of contexts. Thus, we explored how glial responses to neurodegeneration are altered with age. Here we show that glia-axon phagocytic interactions change dramatically in the aged Drosophila brain. Aged glia clear degenerating axons slowly due to low phosphoinositide-3-kinase (PI3K) signalling and, subsequently, reduced expression of the conserved phagocytic receptor Draper/MEGF10. Importantly, boosting PI3K/Draper activity in aged glia significantly reverses slow phagocytic responses. Moreover, several hours post axotomy, early hallmarks of Wallerian degeneration (WD) are delayed in aged flies. We propose that slow clearance of degenerating axons is mechanistically twofold, resulting from deferred initiation of axonal WD and reduced PI3K/Draper-dependent glial phagocytic function. Interventions that boost glial engulfment activity, however, can substantially reverse delayed clearance of damaged neuronal debris.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)