Functional recovery of glycine receptors in spastic murine model of startle disease

Annamaria Molon, Simone Di Giovanni, Yetrib Hathout, JoAnne E Natale, Eric P. Hoffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Clinical variability is common in inherited gene defects of the central nervous system in humans and in animal models of human disorders. Here, we used the homozygous spastic (spa) mutant mice, which resemble human hereditary hyperekplexia, to determine the molecular remodeling of the spinal cord through the course of the disease, and develop a model for clinical disparity between littermates. The spa mutation is an insertion of a LINE-1 element in the gene for the beta subunit of the glycine receptor, Glrb. The insertion causes aberrant splicing in the beta subunit of glycine receptor gene with a consequent important reduction of glycine receptors. At young ages, all homozygous spa animals were spastic, showed loss of glycine receptors, increased expression of vesicular glycine/GABA transporter and NMDA receptors, induction of activated caspase3, and preferential loss of glycinergic interneurons consistent with neurotransmitter toxicity model. Those littermates that recovered from symptoms showed strong over-expression of the glycine receptor alpha 1 subunit (Glra1), and increased myelination and synaptic plasticity. Littermates that showed a deteriorating clinical course failed to over-express Glra1, and also showed relative loss of gephyrin (receptor clustering). These molecular changes were associated with a preferential loss of GABAergic interneurons, and extensive motorneuron loss. These data suggest that functional recovery is likely due to expression of homomeric glycine receptors, rescue from excitotoxicity, and subsequent neuronal remodeling. We propose that human patients with hyperekplexia show remodeling similar to that of the recovering spa mice, as human patients also show a lessening of symptoms as a function of age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-304
Number of pages14
JournalNeurobiology of Disease
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • CNS diseases
  • Excitotoxicity
  • Glycine receptor
  • Spasticity
  • Startle disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology


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