Hypertrophy of nigral neurons in Torsin1A deletion (DYT1) carriers manifesting dystonia

Parkinsonism Relat Disord. 2019 Jan:58:63-69. doi: 10.1016/j.parkreldis.2018.08.020. Epub 2018 Aug 31.


Objective: To individuate morphometric changes and prevalent types of intraneuronal inclusions in nigral neurons of DYT1 dystonia autopsy-brains.

Methods: Using precise methods of quantification, such as unbiased stereology, we measured cellular and subcellular volumes of neuromelanin-containing (pigmented) neurons in the substantia nigra (SN) of DYT1 carriers with and without manifestation of generalized dystonia (manif-DYT1 and non-manif-DYT1, respectively), non-DYT1 carriers manifesting generalized dystonia (manif-non-DYT1) patients, and age-matched control subjects (controls). A total of four DYT1 carriers (two manif-DYT1 and two non-manif-DYT1), six manif-non-DYT1 carriers, and six controls autopsy-brains were available for these neuropathological-morphometric analyses. The search of brain lesions was performed for: tau neurofibrillary tangles and neurites, extracellular β-amyloid deposits, Lewy bodies and neurites, TorsinA, Laminin A + C, Ubiquitin, p62, pTDP43 intraneuronal inclusions; and Negri, Bunina, Hirano, Marinesco, Nissl, and Buscaino bodies.

Results: An increased mean cell body, nuclear, and nucleolar volume of nigral neurons in manif-DYT1 vs. non-manif-DYT1 (p < 0.0001), manif-non-DYT1 (p < 0.0001), and controls (p < 0.00001) was found. Increased nuclear and nucleolar volumes in manif-non-DYT1 vs. controls were also found. None of the considered possible intraneuronal lesions were more frequent or prevalent in nigral neurons of manif-DYT1 vs. all the other groups.

Conclusions: Unbiased stereology-based measurements of nigral neurons enlargement in manif-DYT1 in the absence of intraneuronal inclusions or neurodegenerative processes, is novel. These findings suggest distinct pathogenetic mechanisms between manif-DYT1 vs. non-manif-DYT1 and manif-non-DYT1 dystonia, especially in terms of possible nigral dopaminergic abnormalities. These data could open new pathophysiologic views on specific dopamino-associated pathomechanisms related to the clinical manifestation of generalized dystonia.

Keywords: DYT1; Dopamine; Generalized dystonia; Neuronal Hypertrophy; Substantia Nigra; torsinA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Dystonia Musculorum Deformans / genetics
  • Dystonia Musculorum Deformans / pathology
  • Dystonic Disorders / genetics*
  • Dystonic Disorders / pathology*
  • Female
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Molecular Chaperones / genetics*
  • Neurons / pathology*
  • Substantia Nigra / pathology*


  • Molecular Chaperones
  • TOR1A protein, human

Supplementary concepts

  • Dystonia musculorum deformans type 1