A recent report of autosomal-recessive primary isolated dystonia (DYT2 dystonia) identified mutations in HPCA, a gene encoding a neuronal calcium sensor protein, hippocalcin (HPCA), as the cause of this disease. However, how mutant HPCA leads to neuronal dysfunction remains unknown. Using a multidisciplinary approach, we demonstrated the failure of dystonic N75K HPCA mutant to decode short bursts of action potentials and theta rhythms in hippocampal neurons by its Ca2+-dependent translocation to the plasma membrane. This translocation suppresses neuronal activity via slow afterhyperpolarization (sAHP) and we found that the N75K mutant could not control sAHP during physiologically relevant neuronal activation. Simulations based on the obtained experimental results directly demonstrated an increased excitability in neurons expressing N75K mutant instead of wild type (WT) HPCA. In conclusion, our study identifies sAHP as a downstream cellular target perturbed by N75K mutation in DYT2 dystonia, demonstrates its impact on neuronal excitability, and suggests a potential therapeutic strategy to efficiently treat DYT2.
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