Collagen VI Regulates Motor Circuit Plasticity and Motor Performance by Cannabinoid Modulation

J Neurosci. 2022 Feb 23;42(8):1557-1573. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0962-21.2021. Epub 2021 Dec 27.


Collagen VI is a key component of muscle basement membranes, and genetic variants can cause monogenic muscular dystrophies. Conversely, human genetic studies recently implicated collagen VI in central nervous system function, with variants causing the movement disorder dystonia. To elucidate the neurophysiological role of collagen VI, we generated mice with a truncation of the dystonia-related collagen α3 VI (COL6A3) C-terminal domain (CTD). These Col6a3CTT mice showed a recessive dystonia-like phenotype in both sexes. We found that COL6A3 interacts with the cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1R) complex in a CTD-dependent manner. Col6a3CTT mice of both sexes have impaired homeostasis of excitatory input to the basal pontine nuclei (BPN), a motor control hub with dense COL6A3 expression, consistent with deficient endocannabinoid (eCB) signaling. Aberrant synaptic input in the BPN was normalized by a CB1R agonist, and motor performance in Col6a3CTT mice of both sexes was improved by CB1R agonist treatment. Our findings identify a readily therapeutically addressable synaptic mechanism for motor control.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Dystonia is a movement disorder characterized by involuntary movements. We previously identified genetic variants affecting a specific domain of the COL6A3 protein as a cause of dystonia. Here, we created mice lacking the affected domain and observed an analogous movement disorder. Using a protein interaction screen, we found that the affected COL6A3 domain mediates an interaction with the cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1R). Concordantly, our COL6A3-deficient mice showed a deficit in synaptic plasticity linked to a deficit in cannabinoid signaling. Pharmacological cannabinoid augmentation rescued the motor impairment of the mice. Thus, cannabinoid augmentation could be a promising avenue for treating dystonia, and we have identified a possible molecular mechanism mediating this.

Keywords: basal pontine nuclei; cannabinoid receptor; collagen VI; dystonia; endocannabinoid; synaptic homeostasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cannabinoids* / metabolism
  • Cannabinoids* / pharmacology
  • Collagen Type VI* / genetics
  • Collagen Type VI* / metabolism
  • Dystonia* / genetics
  • Dystonia* / metabolism
  • Dystonic Disorders* / genetics
  • Dystonic Disorders* / metabolism
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Motor Neurons* / drug effects
  • Mutation
  • Neuronal Plasticity* / drug effects
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid / genetics
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid / metabolism


  • Cannabinoids
  • Collagen Type VI
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid

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