The Crossroads of Synaptic Growth Signaling, Membrane Traffic and Neurological Disease: Insights from Drosophila

Traffic. 2016 Feb;17(2):87-101. doi: 10.1111/tra.12345. Epub 2015 Dec 9.


Neurons require target-derived autocrine and paracrine growth factors to maintain proper identity, innervation, homeostasis and survival. Neuronal growth factor signaling is highly dependent on membrane traffic, both for the packaging and release of the growth factors themselves, and for regulation of intracellular signaling by their transmembrane receptors. Here, we review recent findings from the Drosophila larval neuromuscular junction (NMJ) that illustrate how specific steps of intracellular traffic and inter-organelle interactions impinge on signaling, particularly in the bone morphogenic protein, Wingless and c-Jun-activated kinase pathways, regulating elaboration and stability of NMJ arbors, construction of synapses and synaptic transmission and homeostasis. These membrane trafficking and signaling pathways have been implicated in human motor neuron diseases including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and hereditary spastic paraplegia, highlighting their importance for neuronal health and survival.

Keywords: BMP; Drosophila; Wg; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; endosome; exosome; hereditary spastic paraplegia; signaling; synapse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Motor Neurons / pathology
  • Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Neuromuscular Junction / physiology
  • Protein Transport / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology