From unaffected to Dravet Syndrome – extreme SCN1A phenotypes in a large GEFS+ family

The two faces of SCN1A. Even though the range of phenotypes associated with mutations in SCN1A can be conceptualized as a continuum, there are usually two distinct entities in clinical practice: the severe, epileptic encephalopathy of Dravet Syndrome due to de novo mutations and the usually mild fever-related epilepsies in autosomal dominant GEFS+ families. While Dravet Syndrome can also be seen in some families with Genetic Epilepsy with Febrile Seizures Plus (GEFS+), this is a rare phenomenon; there is usually little overlap between Dravet Syndrome and GEFS+. Within the Israel Epilepsy Family Project, we came across such a family with overlapping phenotypes. This recently published large GEFS+ family probably has the widest phenotypic range reported to date. Continue reading

Identifying core phenotypes – epilepsy, ID and recurrent microdeletions

Triad. There are three microdeletions in particular that increase the risk for the Idiopathic/Genetic Generalized Epilepsies (IGE/GGE). This triad includes microdeletions at 15q13.3, 16p13.11 and 15q11.2, which are hotspot deletions arising from the particular architecture of the human genome. While the association of these microdeletions with epilepsy and other neurodevelopmental disorders including autism, intellectual disability and schizophrenia is well established, the core phenotype of these variants remains elusive, including the question whether such a core phenotype actually exists. In a recent paper in Neurology, Mullen and collaborators zoom in on a possible core phenotype of these microdeletions. The authors investigate a phenotype in which these microdeletions are particularly enriched: generalized epilepsy with intellectual disability. Continue reading

16p13.11 microdeletions and the male bias

The enigmatic deletion. Amongst the various microdeletions implicated in human epilepsy, the 16q13.11 microdeletion is one of the structural variations that poses significant difficulties in understanding its associated risk and phenotypes. Now a recent paper in PLOS One investigates a large cohort of patients with various neurodevelopmental disorders for microdeletions in the 16p13.11 region. And particularly the finding regarding the sex distribution of symptomatic deletion carriers is remarkable.   Continue reading

PGAP2 mutations and intellectual disability with elevated alkaline phosphatase

Red flags. Despite the availability of a large panel of metabolic and genetic tests as well as high-resolution neuroimaging, the cause of disease in the vast majority of patients remains unknown. This situation also applies for intellectual disability, where there is little to offer in terms of diagnostic procedures once patients are negative for array comparative genomic hybridization (array CGH). In clinical practice, we often hope that some minor clinical or biochemical features may lead us to the correct diagnosis, but in the majority of cases, these investigations lead nowhere. Now, in two back-to-back publications in the American Journal of Human Genetics, two papers describe PGAP2 mutations in patients with non-syndromal intellectual disability with elevated alkaline phosphatase.  Continue reading

One in four – the carrier rate of recessive diseases

How frequent? With all the genetic information around, we are often wondering how much genetic morbidity is really hidden in our genomes. Yes, everybody is a knock-out for 1-3 genes, but in most cases, these variants do not cause disease. However, what happens if you apply genomics to estimate the burden of known disease variants? Now in a recent paper in Genetics in Medicine by Lazarin and colleagues, the carrier frequency for ~400 variants known to cause ~100 recessive disorders is investigated. 24% of all individuals are carriers for at least one recessive disorder. Continue reading

The cat in the bag

And the hairball. What is the value of network analysis of genetic data except for being an undefined label for any work including the use of external data sources for the evaluation of hmm, some genetic data? Let’s be specific: what is the value of this recent high-profile paper in Nature Neuroscience describing the distribution of variants in a schizophrenia network? Continue reading

De novo mutations in Infantile Spasms and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome

Quantum leap. At the Annual Meeting of the American Epilepsy Society, the Epi4K consortium presented the first data on exome sequencing in epileptic encephalopathies. This data is the most exciting finding in the field of epilepsy genetics in 2012 so far, as it provides a deep insight into the genetic architecture of Infantile Spasms (IS) and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS). With the findings presented by the Epi4K collaborators, the epileptic encephalopathies are joining a group of neurodevelopmental disorders with a significant burden of de novo mutations.  However, there are important differences that set both IS and LGS apart from diseases like autism, intellectual disability and schizophrenia. Continue reading

A new spectrum unfolding – KCNT1 mutations in ADNFLE and MMPSI

A surprising finding. The genetic basis of many epileptic encephalopathies and familial epilepsies remains unknown. Novel sequencing technologies such as Next Generation Sequencing now offer the possibility to identify the genetic basis of these conditions. However, it is a rare event that a single gene is implicated in two completely different epilepsy subtypes. Such a finding has now been reported in Nature Genetics. The KCNT1 gene is found to be mutated in Malignant Migrating Partial Seizures of Infancy (MMPSI) and a severe form of Autosomal Dominant Nocturnal Frontal Lobe Epilepsy (ADNFLE). I doublechecked at least three times whether both papers actually talk about the same gene. Continue reading

Finding the difference: de novo mutations in schizophrenia

The story continues. This week, I am trying to catch up with a number of recent papers in the field of neurogenetics. A recent publication in Nature Genetics highlights the role of de novo mutations identified through exome sequencing in schizophrenia. The authors also look at control data and compare their findings with the growing body of data available for autism research. And while many aspects regarding de novo mutations become more clear with every study published, the real difference is sometimes difficult to grasp. Continue reading

Genome meets Connectome: gene networks and brain microstructure

Genetic imaging. There are two major fields in epilepsy research – functional imaging and genetics. Both fields live parallel lives and hardly ever interact. When they do, the interaction is usually short-lived and full of disappointments, as nothing has really ever worked. However, a grant application due today has led me to a recent publication in the Journal of Neuroscience, which combines imaging and GWAS. And believe it or not, the ion channels are back. Continue reading