Essential tremor is the most common movement disorder and has an unknown etiology. Here we report that γ-aminobutyric acidA (GABAA) receptor α1–/– mice exhibit postural and kinetic tremor and motor incoordination that is characteristic of essential tremor disease. We tested mice with essential-like tremor using current drug therapies that alleviate symptoms in essential tremor patients (primidone, propranolol, and gabapentin) and several candidates hypothesized to reduce tremor, including ethanol; the noncompetitive N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonist MK-801; the adenosine A1 receptor agonist 2-chloro-N6-cyclopentyladenosine (CCPA); the GABAA receptor modulators diazepam, allopregnanolone, and Ro15-4513; and the L-type Ca2+ channel antagonist nitrendipine. Primidone, propranolol, and gabapentin reduced the amplitude (power) of the pathologic tremor. Nonsedative doses of ethanol eliminated tremor in mice. Diazepam, allopregnanolone, Ro15-4513, and nitrendipine had no effect or enhanced tremor, whereas MK-801 and CCPA reduced tremor. To understand the etiology of tremor in these mice, we studied the electrophysiological properties of cerebellar Purkinje cells. Cerebellar Purkinje cells in GABAA receptor α1–/– mice exhibited a profound loss of all responses to synaptic or exogenous GABA, but no differences in abundance, gross morphology, or spontaneous synaptic activity were observed. This genetic animal model elucidates a mechanism of GABAergic dysfunction in the major motor pathway and potential targets for pharmacotherapy of essential tremor.
Jason E. Kralic, Hugh E. Criswell, Jessica L. Osterman, Todd K. O’Buckley, Mary E. Wilkie, Douglas B. Matthews, Kristin Hamre, George R. Breese, Gregg E. Homanics, A. Leslie Morrow