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Life extension through neurofibromin mitochondrial regulation and antioxidant therapy for neurofibromatosis-1 in Drosophila melanogaster


We investigated the pathophysiology of neurofibromatosis-1 (NF1) in Drosophila melanogaster by inactivation or overexpression of the NF1 gene. NF1 gene mutants had shortened life spans and increased vulnerability to heat and oxidative stress in association with reduced mitochondrial respiration and elevated reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. Flies overexpressing NF1 had increased life spans, improved reproductive fitness, increased resistance to oxidative and heat stress in association with increased mitochondrial respiration and a 60% reduction in ROS production. These phenotypic effects proved to be modulated by the adenylyl cyclase/cyclic AMP (cAMP)/protein kinase A pathway, not the Ras/Raf pathway. Treatment of wild-type D. melanogaster with cAMP analogs increased their life span, and treatment of NF1 mutants with metalloporphyrin catalytic antioxidant compounds restored their life span. Thus, neurofibromin regulates longevity and stress resistance through cAMP regulation of mitochondrial respiration and ROS production, and NF1 may be treatable using catalytic antioxidants.

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Figure 1: NF1 deficiency shortens D. melanogaster life span through adenylyl cyclase/cAMP/PKA signaling.
Figure 2: Mitochondrial energy deficiency and increased oxidative stress of NF1 mutants can be rescued by antioxidants.
Figure 3: Life extension in flies by overexpression of NF1.
Figure 4: Phenotypic analysis of hsNF1/+;K33 versus K33 flies.
Figure 5: Upregulation of cAMP/PKA signaling extends D. melanogaster life span.
Figure 6: NF1 overexpression increases complex I respiration and activity, reduces ROS production and protects aconitase activity.
Figure 7: The mechanism of neurofibromin-regulated life span.


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We thank S. Summers, J. Nguyen, M. Holmbeck and A. Skejsol for their technical assistance. We also thank V. Caiozzo, V. Procaccio, L. Mueller, V. Subramaniam, K. Waymire, M. Kernan, E. Ruiz-Pesini, A. Flierl, G. McGregor, P. Coskun, S. Gaffey and M. T. Lott for their comments and help. We thank J. Williams (New Jersey Medical and Dental School) for the UAS-dNF1 transgenic lines. This work was supported by the Ellison New Opportunity Award, by a US National Institutes of Health (NIH) multidisciplinary exercise fellowship (AR-47752) and Grass Foundation fellowship awards for 2004 and 2006 to J.J.T. and by an Ellison Foundation Senior Investigator Award and NIH grants AG13154, AG24373, AG01751, DK73691, NS21328 and NS41850 awarded to D.C.W.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



J.J.T. produced Figures 1,2,3,4,5,6,–7 and Supplementary Figures 1, 2, 3b, 4, 5, 6, and 7a, prepared the manuscript and contributed to the revisions and correspondence during the review process. S.E.S. produced Supplementary Figures 3a and 7b and contributed to the manuscript revision. D.M. contributed to Figures 4a–c and 5 and Supplementary Figure 4c. B.J.D. provided MnTDEIP. D.C.W. supervised, managed and funded the research and revised and finalized the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Douglas C Wallace.

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Competing interests

B.J.D. is a consultant for and holds equity in Aeolus Pharmaceutical, which is commercially developing porphyrins as therapeutic agents.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Fig. 1

Normal desiccation tolerance in NF1 mutants. (PDF 44 kb)

Supplementary Fig. 2

NF1/AC/cAMP signaling modulated mitochondrial respiration. (PDF 20 kb)

Supplementary Fig. 3

Intact oxidative stress defense enzymes in NF1 mutants. (PDF 20 kb)

Supplementary Fig. 4

Life extension correlated with NF1 expression level. (PDF 54 kb)

Supplementary Fig. 5

Life extension in Drosophila melanogaster by neuronal NF1 overexpression. (PDF 73 kb)

Supplementary Fig. 6

Elevated cAMP in NF1-overexpressing flies and cAMP feeding did not alter fly body weights. (PDF 102 kb)

Supplementary Fig. 7

NF1 expression did not alter dephosphorylated FOXO or MnSOD levels. (PDF 38 kb)

Supplementary Table 1

Gompertz parameters of NF1-overexpressing flies. (PDF 96 kb)

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Tong, J., Schriner, S., McCleary, D. et al. Life extension through neurofibromin mitochondrial regulation and antioxidant therapy for neurofibromatosis-1 in Drosophila melanogaster. Nat Genet 39, 476–485 (2007).

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