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Targeted activation of midbrain neurons restores locomotor function in mouse models of parkinsonism

Nature Communications

Authors: Débora Masini, Ole Kiehn
Publication: Nature Communications
Date: January 26, 2022
Link to article: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-022-28075-4


The pedunculopontine nucleus (PPN) is a locomotor command area containing glutamatergic neurons that control locomotor initiation and maintenance. These motor actions are deficient in Parkinson’s disease (PD), where dopaminergic neurodegeneration alters basal ganglia activity. Being downstream of the basal ganglia, the PPN may be a suitable target for ameliorating parkinsonian motor symptoms. Here, we use in vivo cell-type specific PPN activation to restore motor function in two mouse models of parkinsonism made by acute pharmacological blockage of dopamine transmission. With a combination of chemo- and opto-genetics, we show that excitation of caudal glutamatergic PPN neurons can normalize the otherwise severe locomotor deficit in PD, whereas targeting the local GABAergic population only leads to recovery of slow locomotion. The motor rescue driven by glutamatergic PPN activation is independent of activity in nearby locomotor promoting glutamatergic Cuneiform neurons. Our observations point to caudal glutamatergic PPN neurons as a potential target for neuromodulatory restoration of locomotor function in PD.

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