Reactive oxygen species (ROS) play essential roles in cell signaling, survival, and homeostasis. Aberrant ROS lead to disease and contribute to the aging process. Numerous enzymes and vigilant antioxidant pathways are required to regulate ROS for normal cellular health. Mitochondria are a major source of ROS, and mechanisms to prevent elevated ROS during oxidative phosphorylation require super oxide dismutase (SOD) activity. SOD2, also known as MnSOD, is targeted to mitochondria and is instrumental in regulating ROS by conversion of superoxides to hydrogen peroxide, which is further broken down into H2O and oxygen. Here, we describe the identification of a novel mutation within the mitochondrial SOD2 enzyme in Drosophila that results in adults with an extremely shortened life span, sensitivity to hyperoxia, and neuropathology. Additional studies demonstrate that this novel mutant, SOD2bewildered, exhibits abnormal brain morphology, suggesting a critical role for this protein in neurodevelopment. We investigated the basis of this neurodevelopmental defect and discovered an increase in aberrant axonal that could underlie the aberrant neurodevelopment and brain morphology defects. This novel allele, SOD2bewildered, provides a unique opportunity to study the effects of increased mitochondrial ROS on neural development, axonal targeting, and neural cell degeneration in vivo.
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