Emerging and converging molecular mechanisms in dystonia

Paulina Gonzalez-Latapi, Nicolas Marotta, Niccolò E. Mencacci*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Dystonia is a clinically, genetically, and biologically heterogeneous hyperkinetic movement disorder caused by the dysfunctional activity of neural circuits involved in motor control. Our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying dystonia pathogenesis has tremendously grown thanks to the accelerated discovery of genes associated with monogenic dystonias (DYT-genes). Genetic discoveries, together with the development of a growing number of cellular and animal models of genetic defects responsible for dystonia, are allowing the identification of several areas of functional convergence among the protein products of multiple DYT-genes. Furthermore, unexpected functional links are being discovered in the downstream pathogenic molecular mechanisms of DYT-genes that were thought to be unrelated based on their primary molecular functions. Examples of these advances are the recognition that multiple DYT-genes are involved in (1) endoplasmic reticulum function and regulation of the integrated stress response (ISR) through Eukaryotic initiation factor 2 alpha signaling; (2) gene transcription modulation during neurodevelopment; (3) pre-and post-synaptic nigrostriatal dopaminergic signaling; and (4) presynaptic neurotransmitter vesicle release. More recently, genetic defects in the endo-lysosomal and autophagy pathways have also been implicated in the molecular pathophysiology of dystonia, suggesting the existence of mechanistic overlap with other movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease. Importantly, the recognition that multiple DYT-genes coalesce in shared biological pathways is a crucial advance in our understanding of dystonias and will aid in the development of more effective therapeutic strategies by targeting these convergent molecular pathways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)483-498
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Neural Transmission
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Cellular stress response
  • Dopamine signaling
  • Dystonia
  • Gene transcription
  • Genetics
  • Molecular pathways
  • Synaptic transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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