Critical brain-expressed exons and de novo mutations in autism

Selection. De novo mutations in neurodevelopmental disorders including autism, schizophrenia, and intellectual disability raise an important question: are the mutations identified in patients pathogenic or are they simply genomic noise? A recent study in Nature Genetics tries to answer this question by looking at expression of particular exons in the brain and the overall mutational burden in these exons. They come up with critical exons, which seem to be particularly vulnerable in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Continue reading

Have we given up on the genetics of febrile seizures?

Fever, genes, and seizures. Undoubtedly, febrile seizures are the most common epilepsy syndrome in humans. Up to 5% of children have febrile seizures. In most children, these febrile seizures are self-limiting, and there is no recurrence. Usually, no long-term treatment is required. We know from family studies and twin studies that febrile seizures have a significant genetic component. Now here are two surprising facts: first, the genetic contribution to febrile seizures is entirely unknown. Secondly, to my knowledge, the genetic contribution to the most common epilepsy syndrome in man has not been addressed in any of the current large-scale studies. Let’s review why this is the case and why we should change this. Continue reading

Publications of the week – PRICKLE1, Phelan-McDermid syndrome, and mitochondrial genetics

The week in review. It’s currently a bit quiet in the literature with respect to novel gene findings. However, there is plenty to explore about genes and variants we already know and their role in human epilepsy. This week’s selection of publications is about functional studies in a gene for progressive myoclonus epilepsy, the EEG signature in a microdeletion syndrome, and contribution of mitochondrial genetics in intractable epilepsy. Continue reading

WWOX, spinocerebellar ataxia, neurodegeneration, and epilepsy

Exomes. Massive parallel sequencing technologies are ideally suited to identify the genetic basis of monogenic disorders, particularly recessive diseases. In a recent publication in the Orphanet Journal of Rare Disease, Abdel-Salam and collaborators identify a homozygous mutation in WWOX in a family with epileptic encephalopathy and neurodegeneration. Their study highlights the issues of how to interpret recessive gene findings spanning different phenotypes identified in the era of exome sequencing. Continue reading

Publications of the week: SLC13A5, SNAP25, and JME fMRI endophenotypes

Catching up. It has been a while since we posted a section on the recent publications in the field of epilepsy genetics. We are trying to catch up by briefly discussing three publications that appeared in the last two weeks. Here is what you should know about citrate transporters in epileptic encephalopathy, an STXBP1-interacting protein, and fMRI endophenotypes in Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy (JME). Continue reading

Should we stop talking about heritability in 2014?

Genetic epidemiology. Long before the first epilepsy gene was discovered, clinicians and researchers were wondering about a genetic contribution to epilepsy. Some epilepsy syndrome were found to run in families in an autosomal dominant or recessive pattern. In other epilepsies, there was an obvious excess of affected family members in the immediate or extended family. And this is how we got stuck with the concept of heritability. Let’s review the perils and pitfalls of heritability and ask the question whether we should retire this concept in the current era of genomic medicine. Continue reading

Twisting DNA and seizures: TDP2 mutations in neurodegeneration with epilepsy

Torsional stress. The DNA double helix has one major problem that we know from telephone cords: it is difficult to untangle. However, our DNA is constantly twisted and untangled for gene transcription. This constant twisting and untwisting produces torsional stress that is relieved by topoisomerases. A recent publication in Nature Genetics now identified a human neurological phenotype that is caused by faulty activity of this mechanism: neurodegeneration with epileptic encephalopathy. However, there are some features of the phenotype that are not easily explained by erroneous DNA twisting. Continue reading

Three things about 16p11.2 duplications in Rolandic Epilepsy that surprised us

In depth. Last week, we briefly mentioned the publication by Reinthalter and collaborators on 16p11.2 duplications in Benign Rolandic Epilepsy. At first glance, you might think that Eva’s publication may just be another description of a microdeletion in another type of epilepsy. However, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s a game changer. Here are three reasons why. Continue reading