Genetics of the GABA-A Receptor in Epilepsy

GABA. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter of the central nervous system. The main function of GABA is to reduce the excitability of neurons, which is the opposite of the excitatory glutamate that we described more extensively on our blog when talking about GRIN– and GRIA-related disorders. Many variants in GABA receptors are linked to epilepsy. Here, we will dive specifically into the genetics of the GABAA receptor.

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SHANK3, epilepsy, and the excitatory/inhibitory imbalance

Postsynaptic. SHANK proteins are elements of the postsynaptic density, linking synaptic transmission with the cytoskeleton. Deletions in SHANK2 and SHANK3 are known genetic risk factors for a broad range of neurodevelopmental disorders. The role of the reciprocal duplications, however, has remained unclear. In recent paper in Nature, a novel mouse model expressing a SHANK3 transgene is investigated. The results of a mere 1.5 fold overexpression of the protein are dramatic, hinting at unanticipated mechanisms that regulate the balance between excitation and inhibition.  Continue reading