Replacement of the glycoinositol phospholipid anchor of Drosophila acetylcholinesterase with a transmembrane domain does not alter sorting in neurons and epithelia but results in behavioral defects

John P. Incardona, Terrone L. Rosenberry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Scopus citations


Drosophila has a single glycoinositol phospholipid (GPI)-anchored form of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) encoded by the Ace locus. To assess the role that GPI plays in the physiology of AChE, we have replaced the wild-type GPI-AChE with a chimeric transmembrane form (TM-AChE) in the nervous system of the fly. Ace null alleles provided a genetic background completely lacking in endogenous GPI-AChE, and Ace minigene P transposon constructs were used to express both GPI- and TM-AChE forms in the tissues where AChE is normally expressed. Control experiments with the GPI-AChE minigene demonstrated a threshold between 9 and 12% of normal AChE activity for adult viability. Ace mutant flies were rescued by GPI-AChE minigene lines that expressed 12-40% of normal activity and were essentially unchanged from wild-type flies in behavior. TM-AChE minigene lines were able to rescue Ace null alleles, although with a slightly higher threshold than that for GPI-AChE. Although rescued flies expressing GPI-AChE at a level of 12% of normal activity were viable, flies expressing 13-16% of normal activity from the TM-AChE transgene died shortly after eclosion. Flies expressing TM-AChE at about 30% of normal levels were essentially unchanged from wild-type flies in gross behavior but had a reduced lifespan secondary to subtle coordination defects. These flies also showed reduced locomotor activity and performed poorly in a grooming assay. However, light level and electron microscopic immunocytochemistry showed no differences in the localization of GPI- and TM-AChE. Furthermore, endogenous and ectopic-induced expression of both AChEs in epithelial tissues of the adult and embryo, respectively, showed that they were sorted identically. Most epithelial cells sorted GPI- and TM-AChE to the apical surface, but cuticle-secreting epithelia sorted both proteins basolaterally. Our data suggest that rather than having a primary role in protein sorting, the GPI anchor of AChE plays some other more subtle cellular role in neuronal physiology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)613-630
Number of pages18
JournalMolecular biology of the cell
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1996


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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