Mutations in proteins of the Drosophila phototransduction cascade, a prototypic guanine nucleotide-binding protein-coupled receptor signaling system, lead to retinal degeneration and have been used as models to understand human degenerative disorders. Here, modulating the sphingolipid biosynthetic pathway rescued retinal degeneration in Drosophila mutants. Targeted expression of Drosophila neutral ceramidase rescued retinal degeneration in arrestin and phospholipase C mutants. Decreasing flux through the de novo sphingolipid biosynthetic pathway also suppressed degeneration in these mutants, Both genetic backgrounds modulated the endocytic machinery because they suppressed defects in a dynamin mutant. Suppression of degeneration in arrestin mutant flies expressing ceramidase correlated with a decrease in ceramide levels. Thus, enzymes of sphingolipid metabolism may be suitable targets in the therapeutic management of retinal degeneration.
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