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Abstract

Despite the significant impacts on human health caused by neurodegeneration, our understanding of the degeneration process is incomplete. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is emerging as a genetic model organism well suited for identification of conserved cellular mechanisms and molecular pathways of neurodegeneration. Studies in the worm have identified factors that contribute to neurodegeneration, including excitotoxicity and stress due to reactive oxygen species (ROS). Disruption of the gene unc-68, which encodes the ryanodine receptor, abolishes excitotoxic cell death, indicating a role for calcium (Ca2+) signaling in neurodegeneration. We tested the requirement for unc-68 in ROS-mediated neurodegeneration using the genetically encoded photosensitizer KillerRed. Upon illumination of KillerRed expressing animals to produce ROS, we observed similar levels of degeneration in wild-type and unc-68 mutant strains. Our results indicate that ROS-mediated cell death is independent of unc-68 and suggest multiple molecular pathways of neurodegeneration.