The Drosophila Odyssey: Spartin Insight into Troyer Syndrome

We are all guilty of cursing at those pesky fruit flies that annoy us as they zip around the room just out of reach of being swatted.  Rarely, it seems, do we think about the incredible genetic insight lying within the genome of these microscopic menaces.  Drosophila melanogaster (the species name for the fruit fly) is in fact an extensively studied and valuable model organism that has helped unravel mysteries of neurodegeneration. One such mystery was the genetic cause of Troyer syndrome – a hereditary spastic paraplegia caused by a mutation in the human spartin gene.  This mutation induces degeneration of corticospinal tract axons, which causes mental retardation, muscle wasting, short stature, lower extremity spasticity, and overall movement problems.Continue reading