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1.  Characterization of a de novo SCN8A mutation in a patient with epileptic encephalopathy 
Epilepsy research  2014;108(9):1511-1518.
Recently, de novo SCN8A missense mutations have been identified as a rare dominant cause of epileptic encephalopathies. Functional studies on the first described case demonstrated gain-of-function effects of the mutation. We describe a novel de novo mutation of SCN8A in a patient with epileptic encephalopathy, and functional characterization of the mutant protein.
Whole exome sequencing was used to discover the variant. We generated a mutant cDNA, transfected HEK293 cells, and performed Western blotting to assess protein stability. To study channel functional properties, patch-clamp experiments were carried out in transfected neuronal ND7/23 cells.
The proband exhibited seizure onset at 6 months of age, diffuse brain atrophy, and more profound developmental impairment than the original case. The mutation p.Arg233Gly in the voltage sensing transmembrane segment D1S4 was present in the proband and absent in both parents. This mutation results in a temperature-sensitive reduction in protein expression as well as reduced sodium current amplitude and density and a relative increased response to a slow ramp stimulus, though this did not result in an absolute increased current at physiological temperatures.
The new de novo SCN8A mutation is clearly deleterious, resulting in an unstable protein with reduced channel activity. This differs from the gain-of-function attributes of the first SCN8A mutation in epileptic encephalopathy, pointing to heterogeneity of mechanisms. Since Nav1.6 is expressed in both excitatory and inhibitory neurons, a differential effect of a loss-of-function of Nav1.6 Arg223Gly on inhibitory interneurons may underlie the epilepsy phenotype in this patient.
PMCID: PMC4490185  PMID: 25239001
SCN8A; Nav1.6; epileptic encephalopathy; exome sequencing; patch-clamp
2.  Structural genomic variation in childhood epilepsies with complex phenotypes 
A genetic contribution to a broad range of epilepsies has been postulated, and particularly copy number variations (CNVs) have emerged as significant genetic risk factors. However, the role of CNVs in patients with epilepsies with complex phenotypes is not known. Therefore, we investigated the role of CNVs in patients with unclassified epilepsies and complex phenotypes. A total of 222 patients from three European countries, including patients with structural lesions on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), dysmorphic features, and multiple congenital anomalies, were clinically evaluated and screened for CNVs. MRI findings including acquired or developmental lesions and patient characteristics were subdivided and analyzed in subgroups. MRI data were available for 88.3% of patients, of whom 41.6% had abnormal MRI findings. Eighty-eight rare CNVs were discovered in 71 out of 222 patients (31.9%). Segregation of all identified variants could be assessed in 42 patients, 11 of which were de novo. The frequency of all structural variants and de novo variants was not statistically different between patients with or without MRI abnormalities or MRI subcategories. Patients with dysmorphic features were more likely to carry a rare CNV. Genome-wide screening methods for rare CNVs may provide clues for the genetic etiology in patients with a broader range of epilepsies than previously anticipated, including in patients with various brain anomalies detectable by MRI. Performing genome-wide screens for rare CNVs can be a valuable contribution to the routine diagnostic workup in patients with a broad range of childhood epilepsies.
PMCID: PMC4060113  PMID: 24281369
CNV; structural genomic variation; childhood epilepsies; epileptic encephalopathies
3.  Prevalence of SCN1A-Related Dravet Syndrome among Children Reported with Seizures following Vaccination: A Population-Based Ten-Year Cohort Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65758.
To determine the prevalence of Dravet syndrome, an epileptic encephalopathy caused by SCN1A-mutations, often with seizure onset after vaccination, among infants reported with seizures following vaccination. To determine differences in characteristics of reported seizures after vaccination in children with and without SCN1A-related Dravet syndrome.
Data were reviewed of 1,269 children with seizures following immunization in the first two years of life, reported to the safety surveillance system of the Dutch national immunization program between 1 January 1997 and 31 December 2006. Selective, prospective follow-up was performed of children with clinical characteristics compatible with a diagnosis of Dravet syndrome.
In 21.9% (n = 279) of children, a diagnosis of Dravet syndrome could not be excluded based on available clinical data (median age at follow-up 16 months). Additional follow-up data were obtained in 83.9% (n = 234) of these children (median age 8.5 years).
15 (1.2% of 1,269; 95%CI:0.6 to 1.8%) children were diagnosed with SCN1A-related Dravet syndrome. Of all reported seizures following vaccinations in the first year of life, 2.5% (95%CI:1.3 to 3.6%) were due to SCN1A-related Dravet syndrome, as were 5.9% of reported seizures (95%CI:3.1 to 8.7%) after 2nd or 3rd DTP-IPV-Hib vaccination.
Seizures in children with SCN1A-related Dravet syndrome occurred more often with a body temperature below 38.5°C (57.9% vs. 32.6%, p = 0.020) and reoccurred more often after following vaccinations (26.7% vs. 4.0%, p = 0.003), than in children without a diagnosis of SCN1A-related Dravet Syndrome.
Although Dravet syndrome is a rare genetic epilepsy syndrome, 2.5% of reported seizures following vaccinations in the first year of life in our cohort occurred in children with this disorder. Knowledge on the specific characteristics of vaccination-related seizures in this syndrome might promote early diagnosis and indirectly, public faith in vaccination safety.
PMCID: PMC3675088  PMID: 23762420
4.  Social responsiveness scale-aided analysis of the clinical impact of copy number variations in autism 
Neurogenetics  2011;12(4):315-323.
Recent array-based studies have detected a wealth of copy number variations (CNVs) in patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Since CNVs also occur in healthy individuals, their contributions to the patient’s phenotype remain largely unclear. In a cohort of children with symptoms of ASD, diagnosis of the index patient using ADOS-G and ADI-R was performed, and the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) was administered to the index patients, both parents, and all available siblings. CNVs were identified using SNP arrays and confirmed by FISH or array CGH. To evaluate the clinical significance of CNVs, we analyzed three families with multiple affected children (multiplex) and six families with a single affected child (simplex) in which at least one child carried a CNV with a brain-transcribed gene. CNVs containing genes that participate in pathways previously implicated in ASD, such as the phosphoinositol signaling pathway (PIK3CA, GIRDIN), contactin-based networks of cell communication (CNTN6), and microcephalin (MCPH1) were found not to co-segregate with ASD phenotypes. In one family, a loss of CNTN5 co-segregated with disease. This indicates that most CNVs may by themselves not be sufficient to cause ASD, but still may contribute to the phenotype by additive or epistatic interactions with inherited (transmitted) mutations or non-genetic factors. Our study extends the scope of genome-wide CNV profiling beyond de novo CNVs in sporadic patients and may aid in uncovering missing heritability in genome-wide screening studies of complex psychiatric disorders.
PMCID: PMC3215885  PMID: 21837366
Autism; Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS); SNP array-based CNV profiling; Gene prioritization; Phosphoinositol signaling; Contactin genes
5.  Recurrent microdeletions at 15q11.2 and 16p13.11 predispose to idiopathic generalized epilepsies 
Brain  2009;133(1):23-32.
Idiopathic generalized epilepsies account for 30% of all epilepsies. Despite a predominant genetic aetiology, the genetic factors predisposing to idiopathic generalized epilepsies remain elusive. Studies of structural genomic variations have revealed a significant excess of recurrent microdeletions at 1q21.1, 15q11.2, 15q13.3, 16p11.2, 16p13.11 and 22q11.2 in various neuropsychiatric disorders including autism, intellectual disability and schizophrenia. Microdeletions at 15q13.3 have recently been shown to constitute a strong genetic risk factor for common idiopathic generalized epilepsy syndromes, implicating that other recurrent microdeletions may also be involved in epileptogenesis. This study aimed to investigate the impact of five microdeletions at the genomic hotspot regions 1q21.1, 15q11.2, 16p11.2, 16p13.11 and 22q11.2 on the genetic risk to common idiopathic generalized epilepsy syndromes. The candidate microdeletions were assessed by high-density single nucleotide polymorphism arrays in 1234 patients with idiopathic generalized epilepsy from North-western Europe and 3022 controls from the German population. Microdeletions were validated by quantitative polymerase chain reaction and their breakpoints refined by array comparative genomic hybridization. In total, 22 patients with idiopathic generalized epilepsy (1.8%) carried one of the five novel microdeletions compared with nine controls (0.3%) (odds ratio = 6.1; 95% confidence interval 2.8–13.2; χ2 = 26.7; 1 degree of freedom; P = 2.4 × 10−7). Microdeletions were observed at 1q21.1 [Idiopathic generalized epilepsy (IGE)/control: 1/1], 15q11.2 (IGE/control: 12/6), 16p11.2 IGE/control: 1/0, 16p13.11 (IGE/control: 6/2) and 22q11.2 (IGE/control: 2/0). Significant associations with IGEs were found for the microdeletions at 15q11.2 (odds ratio = 4.9; 95% confidence interval 1.8–13.2; P = 4.2 × 10−4) and 16p13.11 (odds ratio = 7.4; 95% confidence interval 1.3–74.7; P = 0.009). Including nine patients with idiopathic generalized epilepsy in this cohort with known 15q13.3 microdeletions (IGE/control: 9/0), parental transmission could be examined in 14 families. While 10 microdeletions were inherited (seven maternal and three paternal transmissions), four microdeletions occurred de novo at 15q13.3 (n = 1), 16p13.11 (n = 2) and 22q11.2 (n = 1). Eight of the transmitting parents were clinically unaffected, suggesting that the microdeletion itself is not sufficient to cause the epilepsy phenotype. Although the microdeletions investigated are individually rare (<1%) in patients with idiopathic generalized epilepsy, they collectively seem to account for a significant fraction of the genetic variance in common idiopathic generalized epilepsy syndromes. The present results indicate an involvement of microdeletions at 15q11.2 and 16p13.11 in epileptogenesis and strengthen the evidence that recurrent microdeletions at 15q11.2, 15q13.3 and 16p13.11 confer a pleiotropic susceptibility effect to a broad range of neuropsychiatric disorders.
PMCID: PMC2801323  PMID: 19843651
idiopathic generalized epilepsy; microdeletions; association; genetics
6.  Gene-Network Analysis Identifies Susceptibility Genes Related to Glycobiology in Autism 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(5):e5324.
The recent identification of copy-number variation in the human genome has opened up new avenues for the discovery of positional candidate genes underlying complex genetic disorders, especially in the field of psychiatric disease. One major challenge that remains is pinpointing the susceptibility genes in the multitude of disease-associated loci. This challenge may be tackled by reconstruction of functional gene-networks from the genes residing in these loci. We applied this approach to autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and identified the copy-number changes in the DNA of 105 ASD patients and 267 healthy individuals with Illumina Humanhap300 Beadchips. Subsequently, we used a human reconstructed gene-network, Prioritizer, to rank candidate genes in the segmental gains and losses in our autism cohort. This analysis highlighted several candidate genes already known to be mutated in cognitive and neuropsychiatric disorders, including RAI1, BRD1, and LARGE. In addition, the LARGE gene was part of a sub-network of seven genes functioning in glycobiology, present in seven copy-number changes specifically identified in autism patients with limited co-morbidity. Three of these seven copy-number changes were de novo in the patients. In autism patients with a complex phenotype and healthy controls no such sub-network was identified. An independent systematic analysis of 13 published autism susceptibility loci supports the involvement of genes related to glycobiology as we also identified the same or similar genes from those loci. Our findings suggest that the occurrence of genomic gains and losses of genes associated with glycobiology are important contributors to the development of ASD.
PMCID: PMC2683930  PMID: 19492091

Results 1-6 (6)