Disease Modeling with Human Neurons Reveals LMNB1 Dysregulation Underlying DYT1 Dystonia

J Neurosci. 2021 Mar 3;41(9):2024-2038. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2507-20.2020. Epub 2021 Jan 19.


DYT1 dystonia is a hereditary neurologic movement disorder characterized by uncontrollable muscle contractions. It is caused by a heterozygous mutation in Torsin A (TOR1A), a gene encoding a membrane-embedded ATPase. While animal models provide insights into disease mechanisms, significant species-dependent differences exist since animals with the identical heterozygous mutation fail to show pathology. Here, we model DYT1 by using human patient-specific cholinergic motor neurons (MNs) that are generated through either direct conversion of patients' skin fibroblasts or differentiation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). These human MNs with the heterozygous TOR1A mutation show reduced neurite length and branches, markedly thickened nuclear lamina, disrupted nuclear morphology, and impaired nucleocytoplasmic transport (NCT) of mRNAs and proteins, whereas they lack the perinuclear "blebs" that are often observed in animal models. Furthermore, we uncover that the nuclear lamina protein LMNB1 is upregulated in DYT1 cells and exhibits abnormal subcellular distribution in a cholinergic MNs-specific manner. Such dysregulation of LMNB1 can be recapitulated by either ectopic expression of the mutant TOR1A gene or shRNA-mediated downregulation of endogenous TOR1A in healthy control MNs. Interestingly, downregulation of LMNB1 can largely ameliorate all the cellular defects in DYT1 MNs. These results reveal the value of disease modeling with human patient-specific neurons and indicate that dysregulation of LMNB1, a crucial component of the nuclear lamina, may constitute a major molecular mechanism underlying DYT1 pathology.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Inaccessibility to patient neurons greatly impedes our understanding of the pathologic mechanisms for dystonia. In this study, we employ reprogrammed human patient-specific motor neurons (MNs) to model DYT1, the most severe hereditary form of dystonia. Our results reveal disease-dependent deficits in nuclear morphology and nucleocytoplasmic transport (NCT). Most importantly, we further identify LMNB1 dysregulation as a major contributor to these deficits, uncovering a new pathologic mechanism for DYT1 dystonia.

Keywords: TOR1A; cholinergic motor neurons; dystonia; human neurons; nuclear LMNB1; nucleocytoplasmic transport.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cellular Reprogramming Techniques / methods*
  • Dystonia Musculorum Deformans / genetics
  • Dystonia Musculorum Deformans / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
  • Lamin Type B / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Molecular Chaperones / genetics
  • Motor Neurons / metabolism*
  • Motor Neurons / pathology
  • Neural Stem Cells
  • Young Adult


  • Lamin Type B
  • Molecular Chaperones
  • TOR1A protein, human

Supplementary concepts

  • Dystonia musculorum deformans type 1