Culling Less Fit Neurons Protects against Amyloid-β-Induced Brain Damage and Cognitive and Motor Decline

Cell Rep. 2018 Dec 26;25(13):3661-3673.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2018.11.098.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia, impairing cognitive and motor functions. One of the pathological hallmarks of AD is neuronal loss, which is not reflected in mouse models of AD. Therefore, the role of neuronal death is still uncertain. Here, we used a Drosophila AD model expressing a secreted form of human amyloid-β42 peptide and showed that it recapitulates key aspects of AD pathology, including neuronal death and impaired long-term memory. We found that neuronal apoptosis is mediated by cell fitness-driven neuronal culling, which selectively eliminates impaired neurons from brain circuits. We demonstrated that removal of less fit neurons delays β-amyloid-induced brain damage and protects against cognitive and motor decline, suggesting that contrary to common knowledge, neuronal death may have a beneficial effect in AD.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s; Drosophila; apoptosis; azot; cell competition; cell fitness; neurodegeneration; neuronal selection; β-amyloid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Cell Death
  • Cognition Disorders / pathology*
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Courtship
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster / metabolism
  • Epithelium / drug effects
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Epithelium / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease / pathology
  • Longevity
  • Male
  • Memory, Long-Term / drug effects
  • Motor Activity* / drug effects
  • Mutant Proteins / metabolism
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / pathology*
  • Neuroprotection* / drug effects
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology
  • Peptide Fragments / toxicity*
  • Vacuoles / metabolism


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Mutant Proteins
  • Peptide Fragments
  • amyloid beta-protein (1-42)