Research ArticleNeurodegenerative Disease

Decreased Tonic Inhibition in Cerebellar Granule Cells Causes Motor Dysfunction in a Mouse Model of Angelman Syndrome

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Science Translational Medicine  05 Dec 2012:
Vol. 4, Issue 163, pp. 163ra157
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3004655

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Angelman syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder caused by loss of function of the UBE3A gene encoding a ubiquitin E3 ligase. Motor dysfunction is a characteristic feature of Angelman syndrome, but neither the mechanisms of action nor effective therapeutic strategies have yet been elucidated. We report that tonic inhibition is specifically decreased in cerebellar granule cells of Ube3a-deficient mice, a model of Angelman syndrome. As a mechanism underlying this decrease in tonic inhibition, we show that Ube3a controls degradation of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) transporter 1 (GAT1) and that deficiency of Ube3a induces a surplus of GAT1 that results in a decrease in GABA concentrations in the extrasynaptic space. Administering low doses of 4,5,6,7-tetrahydroisothiazolo-[5,4-c]pyridin-3-ol (THIP), a selective extrasynaptic GABAA receptor agonist, improves the abnormal firing properties of a population of Purkinje cells in cerebellar brain slices and reduces cerebellar ataxia in Ube3a-deficient mice in vivo. These results suggest that pharmacologically increasing tonic inhibition may be a useful strategy for alleviating motor dysfunction in Angelman syndrome.

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