Essential tremor is a common brain disorder affecting millions of people, yet the neuronal mechanisms underlying this prevalent disease remain elusive. Here, we showed that conditional deletion of synaptotagmin-2, the fastest Ca2+ sensor for synaptic neurotransmitter release, from parvalbumin neurons in mice caused an action tremor syndrome resembling the core symptom of essential tremor patients. Combining brain region–specific and cell type–specific genetic manipulation methods, we found that deletion of synaptotagmin-2 from excitatory parvalbumin-positive neurons in cerebellar nuclei was sufficient to generate an action tremor. The synaptotagmin-2 deletion converted synchronous into asynchronous neurotransmitter release in projections from cerebellar nuclei neurons onto gigantocellular reticular nucleus neurons, which might produce an action tremor by causing signal oscillations during movement. The tremor was rescued by completely blocking synaptic transmission with tetanus toxin in cerebellar nuclei, which also reversed the tremor phenotype in the traditional harmaline-induced essential tremor model. Using a promising animal model for action tremor, our results thus characterized a synaptic circuit mechanism that may underlie the prevalent essential tremor disorder.
Mu Zhou, Maxwell D. Melin, Wei Xu, Thomas C. Südhof