Glial Sphingosine-Mediated Epigenetic Regulation Stabilizes Synaptic Function in Drosophila Models of Alzheimer's Disease

J Neurosci. 2023 Oct 18;43(42):6954-6971. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0515-23.2023. Epub 2023 Sep 5.


Destabilization of neural activity caused by failures of homeostatic regulation has been hypothesized to drive the progression of Alzheimer's Disease (AD). However, the underpinning mechanisms that connect synaptic homeostasis and the disease etiology are yet to be fully understood. Here, we demonstrated that neuronal overexpression of amyloid β (Aβ) causes abnormal histone acetylation in peripheral glia and completely blocks presynaptic homeostatic potentiation (PHP) at the neuromuscular junction in Drosophila The synaptic deficits caused by Aβ overexpression in motoneurons are associated with motor function impairment at the adult stage. Moreover, we found that a sphingosine analog drug, Fingolimod, ameliorates synaptic homeostatic plasticity impairment, abnormal glial histone acetylation, and motor behavior defects in the Aβ models. We further demonstrated that perineurial glial sphingosine kinase 2 (Sk2) is not only required for PHP, but also plays a beneficial role in modulating PHP in the Aβ models. Glial overexpression of Sk2 rescues PHP, glial histone acetylation, and motor function deficits that are associated with Aβ in Drosophila Finally, we showed that glial overexpression of Sk2 restores PHP and glial histone acetylation in a genetic loss-of-function mutant of the Spt-Ada-Gcn5 Acetyltransferase complex, strongly suggesting that Sk2 modulates PHP through epigenetic regulation. Both male and female animals were used in the experiments and analyses in this study. Collectively, we provided genetic evidence demonstrating that abnormal glial epigenetic alterations in Aβ models in Drosophila are associated with the impairment of PHP and that the sphingosine signaling pathway displays protective activities in stabilizing synaptic physiology.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Fingolimod, an oral drug to treat multiple sclerosis, is phosphorylated by sphingosine kinases to generate its active form. It is known that Fingolimod enhances the cognitive function in mouse models of Alzheimer's disease (AD), but the role of sphingosine kinases in AD is not clear. We bridge this knowledge gap by demonstrating the relationship between impaired homeostatic plasticity and AD. We show that sphingosine kinase 2 (Sk2) in glial cells is necessary for homeostatic plasticity and that glial Sk2-mediated epigenetic signaling has a protective role in synapse stabilization. Our findings demonstrate the potential of the glial sphingosine signaling as a key player in glia-neuron interactions during homeostatic plasticity, suggesting it could be a promising target for sustaining synaptic function in AD.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; epigenetic regulation; glia; histone acetylation; presynaptic homeostatic plasticity; sphingosine kinase.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease* / genetics
  • Alzheimer Disease* / metabolism
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Drosophila / metabolism
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Female
  • Fingolimod Hydrochloride / pharmacology
  • Fingolimod Hydrochloride / therapeutic use
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neuroglia / metabolism
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Sphingosine


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Sphingosine
  • Fingolimod Hydrochloride
  • Histones