Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the most prevalent hypokinetic movement disorder, and symptomatic PD pathogenesis has been ascribed to imbalances between the direct and indirect pathways in the basal ganglia circuitry. Here, we applied glutamate receptor blockers to the subthalamic nucleus (STN) of parkinsonian rats and evaluated locomotor behaviors via single-unit and local-field recordings. Using this model, we found that inhibition of NMDAergic cortico-subthalamic transmission ameliorates parkinsonian motor deficits without eliciting any vivid turning behavior and abolishes electrophysiological abnormalities, including excessive subthalamic bursts, cortico-subthalamic synchronization, and in situ beta synchronization in both the motor cortex and STN. Premotor cortex stimulation revealed that cortico-subthalamic transmission is deranged in PD and directly responsible for the excessive stimulation-dependent bursts and time-locked spikes in the STN, explaining the genesis of PD-associated pathological bursts and synchronization, respectively. Moreover, application of a dopaminergic agent via a microinfusion cannula localized the therapeutic effect to the STN, without correcting striatal dopamine deficiency. Finally, optogenetic overactivation and synchronization of cortico-subthalamic transmission alone sufficiently and instantaneously induced parkinsonian-associated locomotor dysfunction in normal mice. In addition to the classic theory emphasizing the direct-indirect pathways, our data suggest that deranged cortico-subthalamic transmission via the NMDA receptor also plays a central role in the pathophysiology of parkinsonian motor deficits.
Ming-Kai Pan, Chun-Hwei Tai, Wen-Chuan Liu, Ju-Chun Pei, Wen-Sung Lai, Chung-Chin Kuo