Exploiting the Potential of Drosophila Models in Lysosomal Storage Disorders: Pathological Mechanisms and Drug Discovery

Biomedicines. 2021 Mar 7;9(3):268. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines9030268.


Lysosomal storage disorders (LSDs) represent a complex and heterogeneous group of rare genetic diseases due to mutations in genes coding for lysosomal enzymes, membrane proteins or transporters. This leads to the accumulation of undegraded materials within lysosomes and a broad range of severe clinical features, often including the impairment of central nervous system (CNS). When available, enzyme replacement therapy slows the disease progression although it is not curative; also, most recombinant enzymes cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, leaving the CNS untreated. The inefficient degradative capability of the lysosomes has a negative impact on the flux through the endolysosomal and autophagic pathways; therefore, dysregulation of these pathways is increasingly emerging as a relevant disease mechanism in LSDs. In the last twenty years, different LSD Drosophila models have been generated, mainly for diseases presenting with neurological involvement. The fruit fly provides a large selection of tools to investigate lysosomes, autophagy and endocytic pathways in vivo, as well as to analyse neuronal and glial cells. The possibility to use Drosophila in drug repurposing and discovery makes it an attractive model for LSDs lacking effective therapies. Here, ee describe the major cellular pathways implicated in LSDs pathogenesis, the approaches available for their study and the Drosophila models developed for these diseases. Finally, we highlight a possible use of LSDs Drosophila models for drug screening studies.

Keywords: Drosophila melanogaster; animal model; autophagy; lysosomal storage disorders; lysosome; mucolipidosis; mucopolysaccharidosis; neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis; sphingolipidosis.

Publication types

  • Review