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Alterations in cerebellar physiology are associated with a stiff-legged gait in Atcayji-hes mice

  • Author(s): Luna-Cancalon, K
  • Sikora, KM
  • Pappas, SS
  • Singh, V
  • Wulff, H
  • Paulson, HL
  • Burmeister, M
  • Shakkottai, VG
  • et al.
Abstract

Recent evidence suggests that dystonia, a movement disorder characterized by sustained involuntary muscle contractions, can be associated with cerebellar abnormalities. The basis for how functional changes in the cerebellum can cause dystonia is poorly understood. Here we identify alterations in physiology in Atcayji-hes mice which in addition to ataxia, have an abnormal gait with hind limb extension and toe walking, reminiscent of human dystonic gait. No morphological abnormalities in the brain accompany the dystonia, but partial cerebellectomy causes resolution of the stiff-legged gait, suggesting that cerebellar dysfunction contributes to the dystonic gait of Atcayji-hes mice. Recordings from Purkinje and deep cerebellar nuclear (DCN) neurons in acute brain slices were used to determine the physiological correlates of dystonia in the Atcayji-hes mice. Approximately 50% of cerebellar Purkinje neurons fail to display the normal repetitive firing characteristic of these cells. In addition, DCN neurons exhibit increased intrinsic firing frequencies with a subset of neurons displaying bursts of action potentials. This increased intrinsic excitability of DCN neurons is accompanied by a reduction in after-hyperpolarization currents mediated by small-conductance calcium-activated potassium (SK) channels. An activator of SK channels reduces DCN neuron firing frequency in acute cerebellar slices and improves the dystonic gait of Atcayji-hes mice. These results suggest that a combination of reduced Purkinje neuron activity and increased DCN intrinsic excitability can result in a combination of ataxia and a dystonia-like gait in mice. © 2014 Elsevier Inc.

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