Several episodic neurological disorders are caused by ion channel gene mutations. In patients, transient neurological dysfunction is often evoked by stress, caffeine and ethanol, but the mechanisms underlying these triggers are unclear because each has diverse and diffuse effects on the CNS. Attacks of motor dysfunction in the CaV2.1 calcium channel mouse mutant tottering are also triggered by stress, caffeine and ethanol. Therefore, we used the tottering mouse attacks to explore the pathomechanisms of the triggers. Despite the diffuse physiological effects of these triggers, ryanodine receptor blockers prevented attacks induced by all of them. In contrast, compounds that potentiate ryanodine receptors triggered attacks suggesting a convergent biochemical pathway. Tottering mouse attacks were both induced and blocked within the cerebellum suggesting that the triggers act locally to instigate attacks. In fact, stress, caffeine and alcohol precipitated attacks in CaV2.1 mutant mice in which genetic pathology was limited to cerebellar Purkinje cells, suggesting that the triggers initiate dysfunction within a specific brain region. The surprising biochemical and anatomical specificity of the triggers and the discovery that the triggers operate through shared mechanisms suggest that it is possible to develop targeted therapies aimed at blocking the induction of episodic neurological dysfunction, rather than treating the symptoms once provoked.

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Neurobiology of Disease
Department of Neuroscience

Raike, R., Weisz, C., Hoebeek, F., Terzi, M., de Zeeuw, C., Dichgans, M., … Hess, E. (2013). Stress, caffeine and ethanol trigger transient neurological dysfunction through shared mechanisms in a mouse calcium channelopathy. Neurobiology of Disease, 50(1), 151–159. doi:10.1016/j.nbd.2012.09.005