15 September 2000
The underlying mechanisms of various types of hereditary dystonia, a common movement disorder, are still unknown. Recent findings in a genetic model of a type of paroxysmal dystonia, the dt sz mutant hamster, pointed to striatal dysfunctions. In the present study, immunhistochemical experiments demonstrated a marked decrease in the number and density of parvalbumin-immunoreactive GABAergic interneurons in all striatal subregions of mutant hamsters. To examine the functional relevance of the reduction of these inhibitory interneurons, the effects of the GABA A receptor agonist muscimol on severity of dystonia were examined after microinjections into the striatum and after systemic administrations. Muscimol improved the dystonic syndrome after striatal injections to a similar extent as after systemic treatment, supporting the importance of the deficiency of striatal GABAergic interneurons for the occurrence of the motor disturbances. The disinhibition of striatal GABAergic projection neurons, as suggested by recent extracellular single-unit recordings in dt sz hamsters, should lead to an abnormal neuronal activity in the basal ganglia output nuclei. Indeed, a significantly decreased basal discharge rate of entopeduncular neurons was found in dt sz hamsters. We conclude that a deficit of striatal GABAergic interneurons leads by disinhibition of striatal GABAergic projection neurons to a reduced activity in the entopeduncular nucleus, i.e., to a decreased basal ganglia output. This finding is in line with the current hypothesis about the pathophysiology of hyperkinesias. The results indicate that striatal interneurons deserve attention in basic and clinical research of those movement disorders.