These papers report using invertebrate models of human neurodegenerative disease to identify genes that play a role in the cellular toxicity associated with aggregation-prone, disease-relevant proteins. The studies focus on different diseases and use different model organisms, but have the same underlying rationale: use of these models allows “unbiased” screening for relevant genes without any a priori assumptions about the mechanism of disease protein aggregation or toxicity. In the Van Ham et al. study, the nematode worm C. elegans
was used to identify genes that influence the aggregation of α-synuclein, believed to play a causal role in Parkinson disease. Cao et al. used transgenic Drosophila
expressing the human β amyloid peptide (Aβ), linked to Alzheimer disease, to identify genes that modulate Aβ toxicity. Both studies demonstrate the ability of this approach to uncover unexpected interacting genes, as well as the difficulty of making sense of the genes identified.
The study of Van Ham et al. follows an approach previously used by this group to identify...