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1.  Febrile temperatures unmask biophysical defects in Nav1.1 epilepsy mutations supportive of seizure initiation 
The Journal of General Physiology  2013;142(6):641-653.
Generalized epilepsy with febrile seizures plus (GEFS+) is an early onset febrile epileptic syndrome with therapeutic responsive (a)febrile seizures continuing later in life. Dravet syndrome (DS) or severe myoclonic epilepsy of infancy has a complex phenotype including febrile generalized or hemiclonic convulsions before the age of 1, followed by intractable myoclonic, complex partial, or absence seizures. Both diseases can result from mutations in the Nav1.1 sodium channel, and initially, seizures are typically triggered by fever. We previously characterized two Nav1.1 mutants—R859H (GEFS+) and R865G (DS)—at room temperature and reported a mixture of biophysical gating defects that could not easily predict the phenotype presentation as either GEFS+ or DS. In this study, we extend the characterization of Nav1.1 wild-type, R859H, and R865G channels to physiological (37°C) and febrile (40°C) temperatures. At physiological temperature, a variety of biophysical defects were detected in both mutants, including a hyperpolarized shift in the voltage dependence of activation and a delayed recovery from fast and slow inactivation. Interestingly, at 40°C we also detected additional gating defects for both R859H and R865G mutants. The GEFS+ mutant R859H showed a loss of function in the voltage dependence of inactivation and an increased channel use-dependency at 40°C with no reduction in peak current density. The DS mutant R865G exhibited reduced peak sodium currents, enhanced entry into slow inactivation, and increased use-dependency at 40°C. Our results suggest that fever-induced temperatures exacerbate the gating defects of R859H or R865G mutants and may predispose mutation carriers to febrile seizures.
PMCID: PMC3840920  PMID: 24277604
2.  Incomplete segregation of MYH11 variants with thoracic aortic aneurysms and dissections and patent ductus arteriosus 
Thoracic aortic aneurysms and dissections (TAAD) is a serious condition with high morbidity and mortality. It is estimated that 20% of non-syndromic TAAD cases are inherited in an autosomal-dominant pattern with variable expression and reduced penetrance. Mutations in myosin heavy chain 11 (MYH11), one of several identified TAAD genes, were shown to simultaneously cause TAAD and patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). We identified two large Dutch families with TAAD/PDA and detected two different novel heterozygote MYH11 variants in the probands. These variants, a heterozygote missense variant and a heterozygote in-frame deletion, were predicted to have damaging effects on protein structure and function. However, these novel alterations did not segregate with the TAAD/PDA in 3 out of 11 cases in family TAAD01 and in 2 out of 6 cases of family TAAD02. No mutation was detected in other known TAAD genes. Thus, it is expected that within these families other genetic factors contribute to the disease either by themselves or by interacting with the MYH11 variants. Such an oligogenic model for TAAD would explain the variable onset and progression of the disorder and its reduced penetrance in general. We conclude that in familial TAAD/PDA with an MYH11 variant in the index case caution should be exercised upon counseling family members. Specialized surveillance should still be offered to the non-carriers to prevent catastrophic aortic dissections or ruptures. Furthermore, our study underscores that segregation analysis remains very important in clinical genetics. Prediction programs and mutation evaluation algorithms need to be interpreted with caution.
PMCID: PMC3641382  PMID: 22968129
thoracic aortic aneurysm and dissection (TAAD); patent ductus arteriosus (PDA); myosin heavy chain 11 (MYH11); segregation analysis; oligogenic model
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.  Nav1.1 Dysfunction in Genetic Epilepsy with Febrile Seizures Plus or Dravet Syndrome 
The European journal of neuroscience  2011;34(8):1268-1275.
Relatively few SCN1A mutations associated with genetic epilepsy with febrile seizures plus (GEFS+) and Dravet syndrome (DS) have been functionally characterized. In contrast to GEFS+, many mutations detected in DS patients are predicted to have complete loss-of-function. However, functional consequences are not immediately apparent for DS missense mutations. Therefore, we performed biophysical analysis of three SCN1A missense mutations (R865G, R946C, and R946H) we detected in six patients with DS. Furthermore, we compared the functionality of the R865G DS mutation with that of a R859H mutation detected in a GEFS+ patient; both mutations reside in the same voltage sensor domain of Nav1.1. The four mutations were co-expressed with β1 and β2-subunits in tsA201 cells and characterized using the whole-cell patch clamp technique.
The two DS mutations, R946C and R946H, were non-functional. However, the novel voltage sensor mutants R859H (GEFS+) and R865G (DS) produced sodium current densities comparable to wild-type channels. Both mutants had negative shifts in the voltage dependence of activation, slower recovery from inactivation, and increased persistent current. Only the GEFS+ mutant exhibited a loss-of-function in voltage dependent channel availability.
Our results suggest that the R859H mutation causes GEFS+ by a mixture of biophysical defects in Nav1.1 gating. Interestingly, while loss of Nav1.1 function is common in DS, the R865G mutation may cause DS by overall gain-of-function defects.
PMCID: PMC3195841  PMID: 21864321
GEFS+; Dravet syndrome; epilepsy; SCN1A; human
5.  15q13.3 microdeletions increase risk of idiopathic generalized epilepsy 
Nature genetics  2009;41(2):160-162.
We identified 15q13.3 microdeletions encompassing the CHRNA7 gene in 12 of 1,223 individuals with idiopathic generalized epilepsy (IGE), which were not detected in 3,699 controls (joint P = 5.32 × 10−8). Most deletion carriers showed common IGE syndromes without other features previously associated with 15q13.3 microdeletions, such as intellectual disability, autism or schizophrenia. Our results indicate that 15q13.3 microdeletions constitute the most prevalent risk factor for common epilepsies identified to date.
PMCID: PMC3026630  PMID: 19136953
6.  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

Results 1-6 (6)