4-Aminopyridine Does Not Enhance Flocculus Function in Tottering, a Mouse Model of Vestibulocerebellar Dysfunction and Ataxia

Stahl, John S.; Thumser, Zachary C.
February 2013
PLoS ONE;Feb2013, Vol. 8 Issue 2, p1
Academic Journal
The potassium channel antagonist 4-aminopyridine (4-AP) improves a variety of motor abnormalities associated with disorders of the cerebellum. The most rigorous quantitative data relate to 4-AP's ability to improve eye movement deficits in humans referable to dysfunction of the cerebellar flocculus. Largely based on work in the ataxic mouse mutant tottering (which carries a mutation of the Cacna1a gene of the P/Q voltage-activated calcium channel), 4-AP is hypothesized to function by enhancing excitability or rhythmicity of floccular Purkinje cells. We tested this hypothesis by determining whether systemic or intrafloccular administration of 4-AP would ameliorate the eye movement deficits in tottering that are attributable to flocculus dysfunction, including the reductions in amplitude of the yaw-axis vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) and vision-enhanced vestibulo-ocular reflex (VVOR), and the optokinetic reflex (OKR) about yaw and roll axes. Because tottering's deficits increase with age, both young and elderly mutants were tested to detect any age-dependent 4-AP effects. 4-AP failed to improve VOR, VVOR, and OKR gains during sinusoidal stimuli, although it may have reduced the tendency of the mutants' responses to VOR and VVOR to decline over the course of a one-hour recording session. For constant-velocity optokinetic stimuli, 4-AP generated some enhancement of yaw OKR and upward-directed roll OKR, but the effects were also seen in normal C57BL/6 controls, and thus do not represent a specific reversal of the electrophysiological consequences of the tottering mutation. Data support a possible extra-floccular locus for the effects of 4-AP on habituation and roll OKR. Unilateral intrafloccular 4-AP injections did not affect ocular motility, except to generate mild eye elevations, consistent with reduced floccular output. Because 4-AP did not produce the effects expected if it normalized outputs of floccular Purkinje cells, there is a need for further studies to elucidate the drug's mechanism of action on cerebellar motor dysfunction.


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