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1.  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
2.  Burden Analysis of Rare Microdeletions Suggests a Strong Impact of Neurodevelopmental Genes in Genetic Generalised Epilepsies 
PLoS Genetics  2015;11(5):e1005226.
Genetic generalised epilepsy (GGE) is the most common form of genetic epilepsy, accounting for 20% of all epilepsies. Genomic copy number variations (CNVs) constitute important genetic risk factors of common GGE syndromes. In our present genome-wide burden analysis, large (≥ 400 kb) and rare (< 1%) autosomal microdeletions with high calling confidence (≥ 200 markers) were assessed by the Affymetrix SNP 6.0 array in European case-control cohorts of 1,366 GGE patients and 5,234 ancestry-matched controls. We aimed to: 1) assess the microdeletion burden in common GGE syndromes, 2) estimate the relative contribution of recurrent microdeletions at genomic rearrangement hotspots and non-recurrent microdeletions, and 3) identify potential candidate genes for GGE. We found a significant excess of microdeletions in 7.3% of GGE patients compared to 4.0% in controls (P = 1.8 x 10-7; OR = 1.9). Recurrent microdeletions at seven known genomic hotspots accounted for 36.9% of all microdeletions identified in the GGE cohort and showed a 7.5-fold increased burden (P = 2.6 x 10-17) relative to controls. Microdeletions affecting either a gene previously implicated in neurodevelopmental disorders (P = 8.0 x 10-18, OR = 4.6) or an evolutionarily conserved brain-expressed gene related to autism spectrum disorder (P = 1.3 x 10-12, OR = 4.1) were significantly enriched in the GGE patients. Microdeletions found only in GGE patients harboured a high proportion of genes previously associated with epilepsy and neuropsychiatric disorders (NRXN1, RBFOX1, PCDH7, KCNA2, EPM2A, RORB, PLCB1). Our results demonstrate that the significantly increased burden of large and rare microdeletions in GGE patients is largely confined to recurrent hotspot microdeletions and microdeletions affecting neurodevelopmental genes, suggesting a strong impact of fundamental neurodevelopmental processes in the pathogenesis of common GGE syndromes.
Author Summary
Epilepsy affects about 4% of the general population during lifetime. The genetic generalised epilepsies (GGEs) represent the most common group of epilepsies with predominant genetic aetiology, accounting for 20% of all epilepsies. Despite their strong heritability, the genetic basis of the majority of patients with GGE remains elusive. Genomic microdeletions constitute a significant source of genetic risk factors for epilepsies. The present genome-wide burden analysis in 1,366 European patients with GGE and 5,234 ancestry-matched controls explored the role of large and rare microdeletions (size ≥ 400 kb, frequency < 1%) in the complex genetic architecture of common GGE syndromes. Our results revealed a 2-fold excess of microdeletions in GGE patients relative to the population controls, 2) a 7-fold increased burden for known hotspot microdeletions (15q11.2, 15q13.3, 16p13.11, 22q11.2) previously associated with a wide range of neurodevelopmental disorders, and 3) a more than 4-fold enrichment of microdeletions carrying a gene implicated in neurodevelopmental disorders. Our findings reinforce emerging evidence that genes affected by microdeletions in GGE patients have a strong impact in fundamental neurodevelopmental processes and dissect novel candidate genes involved in epileptogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4423931  PMID: 25950944
3.  GABRA1 and STXBP1: Novel genetic causes of Dravet syndrome 
Neurology  2014;82(14):1245-1253.
To determine the genes underlying Dravet syndrome in patients who do not have an SCN1A mutation on routine testing.
We performed whole-exome sequencing in 13 SCN1A-negative patients with Dravet syndrome and targeted resequencing in 67 additional patients to identify new genes for this disorder.
We detected disease-causing mutations in 2 novel genes for Dravet syndrome, with mutations in GABRA1 in 4 cases and STXBP1 in 3. Furthermore, we identified 3 patients with previously undetected SCN1A mutations, suggesting that SCN1A mutations occur in even more than the currently accepted ∼75% of cases.
We show that GABRA1 and STXBP1 make a significant contribution to Dravet syndrome after SCN1A abnormalities have been excluded. Our results have important implications for diagnostic testing, clinical management, and genetic counseling of patients with this devastating disorder and their families.
PMCID: PMC4001207  PMID: 24623842
4.  CHD2 variants are a risk factor for photosensitivity in epilepsy 
Brain  2015;138(5):1198-1207.
Photosensitivity in epilepsy is common and has high heritability, but its genetic basis remains uncertain. Galizia et al. reveal an overrepresentation of unique variants of CHD2 — which encodes the transcriptional regulator ‘chromodomain helicase DNA-binding protein 2’ — in photosensitive epilepsies, and show that chd2 knockdown in zebrafish causes photosensitivity.
Photosensitivity in epilepsy is common and has high heritability, but its genetic basis remains uncertain. Galizia et al. reveal an overrepresentation of unique variants of CHD2 — which encodes the transcriptional regulator ‘chromodomain helicase DNA-binding protein 2’ — in photosensitive epilepsies, and show that chd2 knockdown in zebrafish causes photosensitivity.
Photosensitivity is a heritable abnormal cortical response to flickering light, manifesting as particular electroencephalographic changes, with or without seizures. Photosensitivity is prominent in a very rare epileptic encephalopathy due to de novo CHD2 mutations, but is also seen in epileptic encephalopathies due to other gene mutations. We determined whether CHD2 variation underlies photosensitivity in common epilepsies, specific photosensitive epilepsies and individuals with photosensitivity without seizures. We studied 580 individuals with epilepsy and either photosensitive seizures or abnormal photoparoxysmal response on electroencephalography, or both, and 55 individuals with photoparoxysmal response but no seizures. We compared CHD2 sequence data to publicly available data from 34 427 individuals, not enriched for epilepsy. We investigated the role of unique variants seen only once in the entire data set. We sought CHD2 variants in 238 exomes from familial genetic generalized epilepsies, and in other public exome data sets. We identified 11 unique variants in the 580 individuals with photosensitive epilepsies and 128 unique variants in the 34 427 controls: unique CHD2 variation is over-represented in cases overall (P = 2·17 × 10−5). Among epilepsy syndromes, there was over-representation of unique CHD2 variants (3/36 cases) in the archetypal photosensitive epilepsy syndrome, eyelid myoclonia with absences (P = 3·50 × 10−4). CHD2 variation was not over-represented in photoparoxysmal response without seizures. Zebrafish larvae with chd2 knockdown were tested for photosensitivity. Chd2 knockdown markedly enhanced mild innate zebrafish larval photosensitivity. CHD2 mutation is the first identified cause of the archetypal generalized photosensitive epilepsy syndrome, eyelid myoclonia with absences. Unique CHD2 variants are also associated with photosensitivity in common epilepsies. CHD2 does not encode an ion channel, opening new avenues for research into human cortical excitability.
PMCID: PMC4407192  PMID: 25783594
photosensitive; seizure; eyelid myoclonia with absences
5.  Altered information processing in children with focal epilepsies with and without intellectual disability 
Functional Neurology  2014;29(2):87-97.
The aim of this exploratory study was to investigate the relationship between focal interictal epileptiform discharges (IEDs), intellectual disability and cortical information processing in children with partial epilepsy. Two groups of patients – Group 1 (n = 9 patients) with focal IEDs and normal IQ and Group 2 (n = 10 patients) with focal IEDs and intellectual disability – were compared with 14 healthy control participants. A computerized choice reaction time task (go/no-go paradigm) was performed and event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded. When an IED occurred during the period between the presentation of the stimulus and the response, the response was defined as a response with IED. Omission errors, commission errors and reaction time were evaluated in temporal relationship to IEDs.
The Group 1 patients did not differ from the healthy children in neurophysiological functions and ERP amplitudes. The Group 2 children showed inferior performances in verbal learning and memory, cognitive flexibility and selective attention, and were characterized by low ERP amplitudes compared with the epilepsy patients with normal IQ and the healthy children. We were not able to identify any significant relationship between IEDs and cognitive functions in either group of patients. Our findings suggest that the impact of IEDs on the overall intellectual abilities of epilepsy patients may not be as significant as previously thought. Moreover, it is likely that abnormalities in cognitive information processing as revealed by lower ERP amplitudes, occurrence of IEDs, and intellectual disabilities may represent common abnormal processes and may not be causally related to each other.
PMCID: PMC4198165  PMID: 25306118
epilepsy; go/no-go; intellectual disability; mismatch negativity; visual evoked potentials
6.  Correction: RBFOX1 and RBFOX3 Mutations in Rolandic Epilepsy 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):10.1371/annotation/f6aed47b-9135-45f5-bfdd-f4ceb33c8561.
PMCID: PMC3823558
7.  Absence seizures: Individual patterns revealed by EEG-fMRI 
Epilepsia  2010;51(10):2000-2010.
Absences are characterized by an abrupt onset and end of generalized 3–4 Hz spike and wave discharges (GSWs), accompanied by unresponsiveness. Although previous electroencephalography–functional magnetic resonance imaging (EEG–fMRI) studies showed that thalamus, default mode areas, and caudate nuclei are involved in absence seizures, the contribution of these regions throughout the ictal evolution of absences remains unclear. Furthermore, animal models provide evidence that absences are initiated by a cortical focus with a secondary involvement of the thalamus. The aim of this study was to investigate dynamic changes during absences.
Seventeen absences from nine patients with absence epilepsy and classical pattern of 3–4 Hz GSWs during EEG-fMRI recording were included in the study. The absences were studied in a sliding window analysis, providing a temporal sequence of blood oxygen–level dependent (BOLD) response maps.
Thalamic activation was found in 16 absences (94%), deactivation in default mode areas in 15 (88%), deactivation of the caudate nuclei in 10 (59%), and cortical activation in patient-specific areas in 10 (59%) of the absences. Cortical activations and deactivations in default mode areas and caudate nucleus occurred significantly earlier than thalamic responses.
Like a fingerprint, patient-specific BOLD signal changes were remarkably consistent in space and time across different absences of one patient but were quite different from patient to patient, despite having similar EEG pattern and clinical semiology. Early frontal activations could support the cortical focus theory, but with an addition: This early activation is patient specific.
PMCID: PMC3769289  PMID: 20726875 CAMSID: cams3390
EEG-fMRI; Absence epilepsy; BOLD response; Thalamus; Cortical focus
8.  RBFOX1 and RBFOX3 Mutations in Rolandic Epilepsy 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e73323.
Partial deletions of the gene encoding the neuronal splicing regulator RBFOX1 have been reported in a range of neurodevelopmental diseases, including idiopathic generalized epilepsy. The RBFOX1 protein and its homologues (RBFOX2 and RBFOX3) regulate alternative splicing of many neuronal transcripts involved in the homeostatic control of neuronal excitability. In this study, we explored if structural microdeletions and exonic sequence variations in RBFOX1, RBFOX2, RBFOX3 confer susceptibility to rolandic epilepsy (RE), a common idiopathic focal childhood epilepsy. By high-density SNP array screening of 289 unrelated RE patients, we identified two hemizygous deletions, a 365 kb deletion affecting two untranslated 5′-terminal exons of RBFOX1 and a 43 kb deletion spanning exon 3 of RBFOX3. Exome sequencing of 242 RE patients revealed two novel probably deleterious variants in RBFOX1, a frameshift mutation (p.A233Vfs*74) and a hexanucleotide deletion (p.A299_A300del), and a novel nonsense mutation in RBFOX3 (p.Y287*). Although the three variants were inherited from unaffected parents, they were present in all family members exhibiting the RE trait clinically or electroencephalographically with only one exception. In contrast, no deleterious mutations of RBFOX1 and RBFOX3 were found in the exomes of 6503 non-RE subjects deposited in the Exome Variant Server database. The observed RBFOX3 exon 3 deletion and nonsense mutation suggest that RBFOX3 represents a novel risk factor for RE, indicating that exon deletions and truncating mutations of RBFOX1 and RBFOX3 contribute to the genetic variance of partial and generalized idiopathic epilepsy syndromes.
PMCID: PMC3765197  PMID: 24039908
9.  Seizure control in a patient with Dravet syndrome and cystic fibrosis☆ 
Satisfactory treatment of patients with Dravet syndrome (DS) is often difficult. Some success can be achieved with bromides, but cognitive side effects and disturbed vigilance may limit their use. Here, we present the case of a successfully treated patient with DS and remarkable features in the course of his disease: additionally to DS, the patient was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF), another genetic channelopathy. Seizure freedom could be achieved under treatment with potassium bromide at the age of 15, but at the age of 20, adverse events made it necessary to stop bromide treatment. After conversion to valproic acid, the patient remained seizure-free, and neuropsychological tests demonstrated sustained improvement of cognition.
PMCID: PMC4150651  PMID: 25667824
DS, Dravet syndrome; SMEI, severe myoclonic epilepsy of infancy; SCN1A, neuronal voltage-gated sodium channel subunit type 1; CF, cystic fibrosis; TAP, Tests of Attentional Performance; TMT A, Trail Making Test; CFTR, cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator; GABA, γ-aminobutyric acid; Dravet syndrome; Bromide; Cystic fibrosis
10.  Absence Seizures with Intellectual Disability as a phenotype of the 15q13.3 microdeletion syndrome 
Epilepsia  2011;52(12):e194-e198.
15q13.3 microdeletions are the most common genetic findings in Idiopathic Generalized Epilepsies identified to date, present in up to 1% of patients. In addition, 15q13.3 microdeletions have been described in patients with epilepsy as part of a complex neurodevelopmental phenotype. We analyzed a cohort of 570 patients with various pediatric epilepsies for 15q13.3 microdeletions. Screening was performed using quantitative polymerase chain reaction, deletions were confirmed by array comparative genomic hybridization. We carried out detailed phenotyping of deletion carriers. In total, we identified four pediatric patients with 15q13.3 microdeletions including one previously described patient. 2/4 deletions were de novo, 1 deletion was inherited from an unaffected parent, and in one patient, inheritance is unknown. All four patients had absence epilepsy with various degrees of intellectual disability. We suggest that absence epilepsy accompanied by intellectual disability may represent a common phenotype of the 15q13.3 microdeletion in pediatric epilepsy patients.
PMCID: PMC3270691  PMID: 22050399
Intellectual disability; IGE
11.  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
12.  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
13.  Genome-Wide Copy Number Variation in Epilepsy: Novel Susceptibility Loci in Idiopathic Generalized and Focal Epilepsies 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(5):e1000962.
Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders in humans with a prevalence of 1% and a lifetime incidence of 3%. Several genes have been identified in rare autosomal dominant and severe sporadic forms of epilepsy, but the genetic cause is unknown in the vast majority of cases. Copy number variants (CNVs) are known to play an important role in the genetic etiology of many neurodevelopmental disorders, including intellectual disability (ID), autism, and schizophrenia. Genome-wide studies of copy number variation in epilepsy have not been performed. We have applied whole-genome oligonucleotide array comparative genomic hybridization to a cohort of 517 individuals with various idiopathic, non-lesional epilepsies. We detected one or more rare genic CNVs in 8.9% of affected individuals that are not present in 2,493 controls; five individuals had two rare CNVs. We identified CNVs in genes previously implicated in other neurodevelopmental disorders, including two deletions in AUTS2 and one deletion in CNTNAP2. Therefore, our findings indicate that rare CNVs are likely to contribute to a broad range of generalized and focal epilepsies. In addition, we find that 2.9% of patients carry deletions at 15q11.2, 15q13.3, or 16p13.11, genomic hotspots previously associated with ID, autism, or schizophrenia. In summary, our findings suggest common etiological factors for seemingly diverse diseases such as ID, autism, schizophrenia, and epilepsy.
Author Summary
Epilepsy, a common neurological disorder characterized by recurrent seizures, affects up to 3% of the population. In some cases, the epilepsy has a clear cause such as an abnormality in the brain or a head injury. However, in many cases there is no obvious cause. Numerous studies have shown that genetic factors are important in these types of epilepsy, but although several epilepsy genes are known, we can still only identify the genetic cause in a very small fraction of cases. In order to identify new genes that contribute to the genetic causes of epilepsy, we searched the human genome for deletions (missing copies) and duplications (extra copies) of genes in ∼500 patients with epilepsy that are not found in control individuals. Using this approach, we identified several large deletions that are important in at least 3% of epilepsy cases. Furthermore, we found new candidate genes, some of which are also thought to play a role in other related disorders such as autism and intellectual disability. These genes are candidates for further studies in patients with epilepsy.
PMCID: PMC2873910  PMID: 20502679
14.  A data-driven model of the generation of human EEG based on a spatially distributed stochastic wave equation 
Cognitive Neurodynamics  2008;2(2):101-113.
We discuss a model for the dynamics of the primary current density vector field within the grey matter of human brain. The model is based on a linear damped wave equation, driven by a stochastic term. By employing a realistically shaped average brain model and an estimate of the matrix which maps the primary currents distributed over grey matter to the electric potentials at the surface of the head, the model can be put into relation with recordings of the electroencephalogram (EEG). Through this step it becomes possible to employ EEG recordings for the purpose of estimating the primary current density vector field, i.e. finding a solution of the inverse problem of EEG generation. As a technique for inferring the unobserved high-dimensional primary current density field from EEG data of much lower dimension, a linear state space modelling approach is suggested, based on a generalisation of Kalman filtering, in combination with maximum-likelihood parameter estimation. The resulting algorithm for estimating dynamical solutions of the EEG inverse problem is applied to the task of localising the source of an epileptic spike from a clinical EEG data set; for comparison, we apply to the same task also a non-dynamical standard algorithm.
PMCID: PMC2427060  PMID: 19003477
EEG; Source localization; Inverse problem
15.  Absence seizures with intellectual disability as a phenotype of the 15q13.3 microdeletion syndrome 
Epilepsia  2011;52(12):e194-e198.
15q13.3 microdeletions are the most common genetic findings identified in idiopathic generalized epilepsies to date, and they are present in up to 1% of patients. In addition, 15q13.3 microdeletions have been described in patients with epilepsy as part of a complex neurodevelopmental phenotype. We analyzed a cohort of 570 patients with various pediatric epilepsies for 15q13.3 microdeletions. Screening was performed using quantitative polymerase chain reaction; deletions were confirmed by array comparative genomic hybridization (CGH). We carried out detailed phenotyping of deletion carriers. In total, we identified four pediatric patients with 15q13.3 microdeletions, including one previously described patient. Two of four deletions were de novo, one deletion was inherited from an unaffected parent, and for one patient the inheritance is unknown. All four patients had absence epilepsy with various degrees of intellectual disability. We suggest that absence epilepsy accompanied by intellectual disability may represent a common phenotype of the 15q13.3 microdeletion in pediatric patients with epilepsy.
PMCID: PMC3270691  PMID: 22050399
Intellectual disability; Idiopathic generalized epilepsy

Results 1-15 (15)