Loss of α-9 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor Subunit Predominantly Results in Impaired Postural Stability Rather Than Gaze Stability

Hui Ho Vanessa Chang, Barbara J. Morley, Kathleen E. Cullen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The functional role of the mammalian efferent vestibular system (EVS) is not fully understood. One proposal is that the mammalian EVS plays a role in the long-term calibration of central vestibular pathways, for example during development. Here to test this possibility, we studied vestibular function in mice lacking a functional α9 subunit of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) gene family, which mediates efferent activation of the vestibular periphery. We focused on an α9 (−/−) model with a deletion in exons 1 and 2. First, we quantified gaze stability by testing vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR, 0.2–3 Hz) responses of both α9 (−/−) mouse models in dark and light conditions. VOR gains and phases were comparable for both α9 (−/−) mutants and wild-type controls. Second, we confirmed the lack of an effect from the α9 (−/−) mutation on central visuo-motor pathways/eye movement pathways via analyses of the optokinetic reflex (OKR) and quick phases of the VOR. We found no differences between α9 (−/−) mutants and wild-type controls. Third and finally, we investigated postural abilities during instrumented rotarod and balance beam tasks. Head movements were quantified using a 6D microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) module fixed to the mouse’s head. Compared to wild-type controls, we found head movements were strikingly altered in α9 (−/−) mice, most notably in the pitch axis. We confirmed these later results in another α9 (−/−) model, with a deletion in the exon 4 region. Overall, we conclude that the absence of the α9 subunit of nAChRs predominately results in an impairment of posture rather than gaze.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number799752
JournalFrontiers in Cellular Neuroscience
Volume15
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 13 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • balance
  • efferent system
  • nicotinic
  • posture
  • vestibular
  • vestibulo-ocular reflex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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