Cholinergic dysregulation produced by selective inactivation of the dystonia-associated protein torsinA

Giuseppe Sciamanna, Robert Hollis, Chelsea Ball, Giuseppina Martella, Annalisa Tassone, Andrea Marshall, Dee Parsons, Xinru Li, Fumiaki Yokoi, Lin Zhang, Yuqing Li, Antonio Pisani, David G. Standaert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


DYT1 dystonia, a common and severe primary dystonia, is caused by a 3-bp deletion in TOR1A which encodes torsinA, a protein found in the endoplasmic reticulum. Several cellular functions are altered by the mutant protein, but at a systems level the link between these and the symptoms of the disease is unclear. The most effective known therapy for DYT1 dystonia is the use of anticholinergic drugs. Previous studies have revealed that in mice, transgenic expression of human mutant torsinA under a non-selective promoter leads to abnormal function of striatal cholinergic neurons. To investigate what pathological role torsinA plays in cholinergic neurons, we created a mouse model in which the Dyt1 gene, the mouse homolog of TOR1A, is selectively deleted in cholinergic neurons (ChKO animals). These animals do not have overt dystonia, but do have subtle motor abnormalities. There is no change in the number or size of striatal cholinergic cells or striatal acetylcholine content, uptake, synthesis, or release in ChKO mice. There are, however, striking functional abnormalities of striatal cholinergic cells, with paradoxical excitation in response to D2 receptor activation and loss of muscarinic M2/M4 receptor inhibitory function. These effects are specific for cholinergic interneurons, as recordings from nigral dopaminergic neurons revealed normal responses. Amphetamine stimulated dopamine release was also unaltered. These results demonstrate a cell-autonomous effect of Dyt1 deletion on striatal cholinergic function. Therapies directed at modifying the function of cholinergic neurons may prove useful in the treatment of the human disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)416-427
Number of pages12
JournalNeurobiology of Disease
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2012


  • Acetylcholine
  • Cholinergic interneuron
  • Conditional knock-out
  • Dystonia
  • DYT1
  • Electrophysiology
  • TorsinA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology


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