Familial hemiplegic migraine type 1 (FHM1) is an autosomal dominant subtype of migraine with aura that is associated with hemiparesis. As with other types of migraine, it affects women more frequently than men. FHM1 is caused by mutations in the CACNA1A gene, which encodes the α1A subunit of Cav2.1 channels; the R192Q mutation in CACNA1A causes a mild form of FHM1, whereas the S218L mutation causes a severe, often lethal phenotype. Spreading depression (SD), a slowly propagating neuronal and glial cell depolarization that leads to depression of neuronal activity, is the most likely cause of migraine aura. Here, we have shown that transgenic mice expressing R192Q or S218L FHM1 mutations have increased SD frequency and propagation speed; enhanced corticostriatal propagation; and, similar to the human FHM1 phenotype, more severe and prolonged post-SD neurological deficits. The susceptibility to SD and neurological deficits is affected by allele dosage and is higher in S218L than R192Q mutants. Further, female S218L and R192Q mutant mice were more susceptible to SD and neurological deficits than males. This sex difference was abrogated by ovariectomy and senescence and was partially restored by estrogen replacement, implicating ovarian hormones in the observed sex differences in humans with FHM1. These findings demonstrate that genetic and hormonal factors modulate susceptibility to SD and neurological deficits in FHM1 mutant mice, providing a potential mechanism for the phenotypic diversity of human migraine and aura.
Katharina Eikermann-Haerter, Ergin Dileköz, Chiho Kudo, Sean I. Savitz, Christian Waeber, Michael J. Baum, Michel D. Ferrari, Arn M.J.M. van den Maagdenberg, Michael A. Moskowitz, Cenk Ayata