SCN1A-related epileptic encephalopathy: Beyond Dravet syndrome

SCN1A phenotypes. Readers of Beyond the Ion Channel will know that we often post about SCN1A, one of the first discovered and most common genetic causes of epileptic encephalopathy. We more or less assume that we understand the phenotypes associated with pathogenic variants in SCN1A: most commonly Dravet syndrome, which is associated with de novo variants, and less commonly genetic epilepsy with febrile seizures plus (GEFS+), associated with inherited missense variants. However, a recent publication by Sadleir and colleagues suggests that the phenotypic spectrum of SCN1A-related disorders may be broader than we have previously appreciated. Are there SCN1A-related epileptic encephalopathies in addition to Dravet syndrome? Continue reading

The story of the missed SCN1A mutations

Dravet Syndrome. In 2011, our EuroEPINOMICS-RES program was in full swing. We had recruited a cohort of 31 patients with Dravet Syndrome who had been previously tested negative for mutations in SCN1A with the aim to identify novel genes for this epileptic encephalopathy. Even though this cohort was crucial in our identification of CHD2, HCN1, and KCNA2 as novel genes for genetic epilepsies, the main finding in this cohort was something that we did not expect. Roughly one third of our 31 patients had mutations in SCN1A, even though they had previously been tested negative. In a recent publication in Molecular Genetics and Genomic Medicine, we tried to understand what had happened and joined forces with other groups who had made the same observation. Here is the story of the missed SCN1A mutations. Continue reading

Three novel aspects about epilepsy gene panels

Gene panels. Epilepsy gene panels have emerged as the first line genetic test for most suspected genetic epilepsies. Gene panels for childhood epilepsies are among the most common genetic tests ordered in a pediatric setting. While the role of gene panel testing is well established, the ideal design of gene panels remains an ongoing issue. A recent publication in the Journal of Medical Genetics provides additional evidence for the role of gene panel analysis in patients with genetic epilepsies. There are three aspects of this study that are particularly noteworthy. Continue reading

The three twists in the SCN1A story that you didn’t know about

SCN1A. Finally, after various other epilepsy genes have been added, we are trying to put together a static website on SCN1A rather than updates only. SCN1A is by far the most prominent epilepsy gene and the first genetic etiology that comes to mind for anything relating to fever and seizures. While our Epilepsiome page will give you all the relevant facts regarding this gene, here is my personal view on the SCN1A story. Continue reading

This is what you should know about KCNT1 – a 2015 update

Dual phenotypes. When KCNT1 was first described as a gene for Migrating Partial Seizures of Infancy in 2012, it wasn’t just a novel gene for epileptic encephalopathies. In parallel, the same gene was found to underlie a novel subtype of autosomal dominant nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsies (ADNFLE). At the time, this left us scratching our heads how a gene could cause such distinct, but entirely separate phenotypes. In a recent publication in Epilepsia, Møller and collaborators revisit the phenotypic spectrum of KCNT1. They find that both phenotypes can occur within a single family and that KCNT1 mutations can result in other phenotypes, adding to the mystery of KCNT1. Continue reading

GABRB3, 15q dups, and CNVs from exomes

GABAergic. Let’s start out with a provocative statement. There is a single gene that may explain more cases of Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS) and Infantile Spasms (IS) than you would expect, rivalling SCN1A for the most common gene found in this group of patients. It’s a gene that you are probably aware of but that you may think to be a very rare finding. In a recent publication in Annals of Neurology, the Epi4K consortium published their recent analysis of copy number variations that were derived from exome data. Combining de novo mutations and copy number variations points to GABRB3 as a major player in LGS and IS, explaining probably more than 2% of patients. Let’s find out about the twilight zone, strategies to obtain structural variants from exomes, and the re-emergence of the 15q duplication syndrome. Continue reading

Publications of the week: SCN8A, SYN1, ZDHHC9, and SCNM1

Power outage. This week’s publications of the week were conceptualized in complete darkness. A thunderstorm had hit the Philadelphia area on Tuesday, leading to widespread power outages in the region. I found myself in the strange position of being without power for a night, but with full strength cell phone reception and a completely charged laptop battery. Here is our post on the most relevant publications of the last few weeks, written in the calm of a dark night where the only sound around was the howling of our neighbor’s backup generator. Continue reading

Exomes on the go – adventures with wANNOVAR

Going cloud. This post is about my most recent discovery when I was trying to modernize some of the bioinformatics tools that I had on my laptop. My experience with variant annotation is a good example of the latest trend in bioinformatics: replacing precise, but difficult-to-use tools by web-based convenience – I didn’t need to install anything after all. This is a brief journey into the world of variant annotation, taking advantage of my new favorite tool, wANNOVAR and applying it to the Epi4K dataset. Continue reading