Reticulon-like-1, the Drosophila orthologue of the hereditary spastic paraplegia gene reticulon 2, is required for organization of endoplasmic reticulum and of distal motor axons.
Several causative genes for hereditary spastic paraplegia encode proteins with intramembrane hairpin loops that contribute to the curvature of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), but the relevance of this function to axonal degeneration is not understood. One of these genes is reticulon2. In contrast to mammals, Drosophila has only one widely expressed reticulon orthologue, Rtnl1, and we therefore used Drosophila to test its importance for ER organization and axonal function. Rtnl1 distribution overlapped with that of the ER, but in contrast to the rough ER, was enriched in axons. The loss of Rtnl1 led to the expansion of the rough or sheet ER in larval epidermis and elevated levels of ER stress. It also caused abnormalities specifically within distal portions of longer motor axons and in their presynaptic terminals, including disruption of the smooth ER (SER), the microtubule cytoskeleton and mitochondria. In contrast, proximal axon portions appeared unaffected. Our results provide direct evidence for reticulon function in the organization of the SER in distal longer axons, and support a model in which spastic paraplegia can be caused by impairment of axonal the SER. Our data provide a route to further understanding of both the role of the SER in axons and the pathological consequences of the impairment of this compartment.