Animal models of dystonia: Lessons from a mutant rat


Dystonia is a motor sign characterized by involuntary muscle contractions which produce abnormal postures. Genetic factors contribute significantly to primary dystonia. In comparison, secondary dystonia can be caused by a wide variety of metabolic, structural, infectious, toxic and inflammatory insults to the nervous system. Although classically ascribed to dysfunction of the basal ganglia, studies of diverse animal models have pointed out that dystonia is a network disorder with important contributions from abnormal olivocerebellar signaling. In particular, work with the dystonic (dt) rat has engendered dramatic paradigm shifts in dystonia research. The dt rat manifests generalized dystonia caused by deficiency of the neuronally restricted protein caytaxin. Electrophysiological and biochemical studies have shown that defects at the climbing fiber-Purkinje cell synapse in the dt rat lead to abnormal bursting firing patterns in the cerebellar nuclei, which increases linearly with postnatal age. In a general sense, the dt rat has shown the scientific and clinical communities that dystonia can arise from dysfunctional cerebellar cortex. Furthermore, work with the dt rat has provided evidence that dystonia (1) is a neurodevelopmental network disorder and (2) can be driven by abnormal cerebellar output. In large part, work with other animal models has expanded upon studies in the dt rat and shown that primary dystonia is a multi-nodal network disorder associated with defective sensorimotor integration. In addition, experiments in genetically engineered models have been used to examine the underlying cellular pathologies that drive primary dystonia. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled "Advances in dystonia". © 2010 Elsevier Inc.

Publication Title

Neurobiology of Disease