Heterozygous Gnal Mice Are a Novel Animal Model with Which to Study Dystonia Pathophysiology

J Neurosci. 2017 Jun 28;37(26):6253-6267. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1529-16.2017. Epub 2017 May 25.


Dystonia is a movement disorder characterized by sustained or intermittent muscle contractions and its pathophysiological mechanisms are still poorly understood. Dominant mutations of the GNAL gene are a cause of isolated dystonia (DYT25) in patients. Some mutations result in a complete loss of function of the encoded protein, Gαolf, an adenylyl-cyclase-stimulatory G-protein highly enriched in striatal projection neurons, where it mediates the actions of dopamine and adenosine. We used male and female heterozygous Gnal knock-out mice (Gnal+/-) to study how GNAL haplodeficiency is implicated in dystonia. In basal conditions, no overt dystonic movements or postures or change in locomotor activity were observed. However, Gnal haploinsufficiency altered self-grooming, motor coordination, and apparent motivation in operant conditioning, as well as spine morphology and phospho-CaMKIIβ in the striatum. After systemic administration of oxotremorine, an unselective cholinergic agonist, Gnal+/- mice developed more abnormal postures and movements than WT mice. These effects were not caused by seizures as indicated by EEG recordings. They were prevented by the M1-preferring muscarinic antagonists, telenzepine, pirenzepine, and trihexyphenidyl, which alleviate dystonic symptoms in patients. The motor defects were worsened by mecamylamine, a selective nicotinic antagonist. These oxotremorine-induced abnormalities in Gnal+/- mice were replicated by oxotremorine infusion into the striatum, but not into the cerebellum, indicating that defects in striatal neurons favor the appearance of dystonia-like movement alterations after oxotremorine. Untreated and oxotremorine-treated Gnal+/- mice provide a model of presymptomic and symptomatic stages of DYT25-associated dystonia, respectively, and clues about the mechanisms underlying dystonia pathogenesis.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Adult-onset dystonia DYT25 is caused by dominant loss-of-function mutations of GNAL, a gene encoding the stimulatory G-protein Gαolf, which is critical for activation of the cAMP pathway in the striatal projection neurons. Here, we demonstrate that Gnal-haplodeficient mice have a mild neurological phenotype and display vulnerability to developing dystonic movements after systemic or intrastriatal injection of the cholinergic agonist oxotremorine. Therefore, impairment of the cAMP pathway in association with an increased cholinergic tone creates alterations in striatal neuron functions that can promote the onset of dystonia. Our results also provide evidence that untreated and oxotremorine-treated Gnal-haplodeficient mice are powerful models with which to study presymptomic and symptomatic stages of DYT25-associated dystonia, respectively.

Keywords: G-protein; cAMP; dystonia; genetic mouse model; muscarinic drugs; striatum.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Dystonia / pathology*
  • Dystonia / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • GTP-Binding Protein alpha Subunits / genetics*
  • Heterozygote
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Movement


  • GTP-Binding Protein alpha Subunits
  • olfactory G protein subunit alpha olf