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1.  A Novel GABRG2 Mutation, p.R136*, in a family with GEFS+ and extended phenotypes 
Neurobiology of disease  2014;64:131-141.
Genetic mutations in voltage-gated and ligand-gated ion channel genes have been identified in a small number of Mendelian families with genetic generalised epilepsies (GGEs). They are commonly associated with febrile seizures (FS), childhood absence epilepsy (CAE) and particularly with generalised or genetic epilepsy with febrile seizures plus (GEFS+). In clinical practice, despite efforts to categorise epilepsy and epilepsy families into syndromic diagnoses, many generalised epilepsies remain unclassified with a presumed genetic basis. During the systematic collection of epilepsy families, we assembled a cohort of families with evidence of GEFS+ and screened for variations in the γ2 subunit of the γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) type A receptor gene (GABRG2). We detected a novel GABRG2(p.R136*) premature translation termination codon in one index-case from a two-generation nuclear family, presenting with an unclassified GGE, a borderline GEFS+ phenotype with learning difficulties and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The GABRG2(p.R136*) mutation segregates with the febrile seizure component of this family's GGE and is absent in 190 healthy control samples. In vitro expression assays demonstrated that γ2(p.R136*) subunits were produced, but had reduced cell-surface and total expression. When γ2(p.R136*) subunits were co-expressed with α1 and β2 subunits in HEK 293T cells, GABA–evoked currents were reduced. Furthermore, γ2(p.R136*) subunits were highly-expressed in intracellular aggregations surrounding the nucleus and endoplasmic reticulum (ER), suggesting compromised receptor trafficking. A novel GABRG2(p.R136*) mutation extends the spectrum of GABRG2 mutations identified in GEFS+ and GGE phenotypes, causes GABAA receptor dysfunction, and represents a putative epilepsy mechanism.
doi:10.1016/j.nbd.2013.12.013
PMCID: PMC4222744  PMID: 24407264
GABAA receptors; epilepsy; protein truncating mutations; autism spectrum disorder
2.  Biophysical Properties of 9 KCNQ1 Mutations Associated with Long QT Syndrome (LQTS) 
Background
Inherited long QT syndrome (LQTS) is characterized by prolonged QT interval on the EKG, syncope and sudden death due to ventricular arrhythmia. Causative mutations occur mostly in cardiac potassium and sodium channel subunit genes. Confidence in mutation pathogenicity is usually reached through family genotype-phenotype tracking, control population studies, molecular modelling and phylogenetic alignments, however, biophysical testing offers a higher degree of validating evidence.
Methods and Results
By using in-vitro electrophysiological testing of transfected mutant and wild-type LQTS constructs into Chinese Hamster Ovary cells, we investigated the biophysical properties of 9 KCNQ1 missense mutations (A46T, T265I, F269S, A302V, G316E, F339S, R360G, H455Y, and S546L) identified in a New Zealand based LQTS screening programme. We demonstrate through electrophysiology and molecular modeling that seven of the missense mutations have profound pathological dominant negative loss-of-function properties confirming their likely disease-causing nature. This supports the use of these mutations in diagnostic family screening. Two mutations (A46T, T265I) show suggestive evidence of pathogenicity within the experimental limits of biophysical testing, indicating that these variants are disease-causing via delayed or fast activation kinetics. Further investigation of the A46T family has revealed an inconsistent co-segregation of the variant with the clinical phenotype.
Conclusions
Electrophysiological characterisation should be used to validate LQTS pathogenicity of novel missense channelopathies. When such results are inconclusive, great care should be taken with genetic counselling and screening of such families, and alternative disease causing mechanisms should be considered.
doi:10.1161/CIRCEP.109.850149
PMCID: PMC2748886  PMID: 19808498
Long QT; Mutations; Arrhythmia; Ion Channels; Sudden Cardiac Death
3.  The Glycinergic System in Human Startle Disease: A Genetic Screening Approach 
Human startle disease, also known as hyperekplexia (OMIM 149400), is a paroxysmal neurological disorder caused by defects in glycinergic neurotransmission. Hyperekplexia is characterised by an exaggerated startle reflex in response to tactile or acoustic stimuli which first presents as neonatal hypertonia, followed in some with episodes of life-threatening infantile apnoea. Genetic screening studies have demonstrated that hyperekplexia is genetically heterogeneous with several missense and nonsense mutations in the postsynaptic glycine receptor (GlyR) α1 subunit gene (GLRA1) as the primary cause. More recently, missense, nonsense and frameshift mutations have also been identified in the glycine transporter GlyT2 gene, SLC6A5, demonstrating a presynaptic component to this disease. Further mutations, albeit rare, have been identified in the genes encoding the GlyR β subunit (GLRB), collybistin (ARHGEF9) and gephyrin (GPHN) – all of which are postsynaptic proteins involved in orchestrating glycinergic neurotransmission. In this review, we describe the clinical ascertainment aspects, phenotypic considerations and the downstream molecular genetic tools utilised to analyse both presynaptic and postsynaptic components of this heterogeneous human neurological disorder. Moreover, we will describe how the ancient startle response is the preserve of glycinergic neurotransmission and how animal models and human hyperekplexia patients have provided synergistic evidence that implicates this inhibitory system in the control of startle reflexes.
doi:10.3389/fnmol.2010.00008
PMCID: PMC2854534  PMID: 20407582
glycine; hyperekplexia; receptor; transporter; mutation

Results 1-3 (3)