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Eur J Pharmacol. 2009 Aug 15;616(1-3):73-80. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2009.05.031. Epub 2009 Jun 2.

Pharmacological characterization of harmaline-induced tremor activity in mice.

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Behavioral Pharmacology, PsychoGenics, Inc., Tarrytown, NY 10591, USA.


Harmaline-induced tremor in rodents is a model of essential tremor. We utilized a novel assay to quantify tremor activity in mice and found that tremor activity was dependent on harmaline dose. The first-line clinical essential tremor treatments propranolol, primidone and gabapentin and gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) significantly attenuated harmaline-induced tremor. The anticonvulsants valproate and carbamazepine and the mood stabilizer lithium suppressed harmaline-induced tremor. The gamma-amino-butyric acid (GABA) receptor subtype A receptor agonist muscimol attenuated harmaline-induced tremor. By contrast, the GABA(B) receptor agonist R-baclofen increased tremor at the lowest dose tested, but had no effects at higher doses. Administration of the non-competitive N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonists phencyclidine or 5R,10S-(+)-5-methyl-10,11-dihydro-5H-dibenzo(a,d)cyclohepten-5,10-imine hydrogen maleate (MK-801) attenuated harmaline-induced tremor. The competitive NMDA antagonist D-4-[(2E)-3-phosphono-2-propenyl]-2-piperazinecarboxylic acid (d-CPPene) dose-dependently blocked harmaline-induced tremor, as did the alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptor antagonist 2,3-dioxo-6-nitro-1,2,3,4-tetrahydrobenzo[f]quinoxaline-7-sulfonamide disodium salt (NBQX). The metabotropic glutamate subtype 5 (mGlu5) receptor antagonist 6-methyl-2-(phenylethynyl)pyridine (MPEP) was inactive against tremor. The dopamine reuptake inhibitor GBR12909 and the dopamine D(1)/D(2) receptor agonist apomorphine attenuated harmaline-induced tremor. Follow-up studies indicated that dopamine D(2)/D(3) but not dopamine D(1) receptor activation likely mediates the effects of apomorphine and GBR12909. Administration of compounds with sedative side-effects had no effect on tremor activity. In summary, the present data confirm the pharmacological validity of harmaline-induced tremor in mice, quantified via a novel assay, as an animal model of essential tremor. Further, these data provide additional evidence for the roles of ionotropic glutamate, GABA(A) and dopamine D(2)/D(3) receptors in the neurobiology of harmaline-induced tremor.

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