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Investigating Parkinson's disease

 Marianne Sedru, Victor Girard, Nathalie Davoust


Studying neurotoxic mechanisms of pesticides in Drosophila models of Parkinson's disease

The use of pesticides (primarily insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides) has become widespread over the last several decades owing to intensive farming and human population growth. This practice has resulted in occupational exposure of many workers involved in the production and use of pesticides, including farmers and city employees, who often use massive quantities of pesticides for agricultural and horticultural purposes. Several epidemiological studies have identified a positive association between the risk for Parkinson’s disease (PD) and exposure to pesticides. Indeed, in France, PD has recently been added to the list of agriculture-related occupational diseases resulting from long-term exposure to pesticides (Decree n° 2012-665 of May 4th, 2012). However, this link is based on past exposure to chemicals such as paraquat (PQ) and rotenone (Rot), which are no longer in use, at least in Europe, and it is not known whether currently used pesticides are also associated with chronic neurotoxicity and an increased risk for development of PD in the future.

In the last 15 years, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has been successfully used to reproduce PD-like symptoms and to study DA neuron degeneration in a genetically tractable organism. Transgenic Drosophila models of PD were initially developed by ectopic expression of human wild-type or mutant α-syn.

In this project we will use flies expressing human α-syn to study the toxic mechanisms of pesticides.