Background: Epilepsy belongs to a group of chronic and highly heterogeneous brain disorders. Many types of epilepsy and epileptic syndromes are caused by genetic factors. The neural amino acid y-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the mammalian central nervous system. It regulates activity of channel pores by binding to transmembrane GABA-receptors (GABRs). The GABRs are heteropentamers assembled from different receptor subunits (α1-6, β1-3, γ1-3, δ, ε, θ, π, and ρ1-3). Several epileptic disorders are caused by mutations in genes encoding single GABRs. Methods: We applied trio- and single-whole exome sequencing to search for genetic sequence variants associated with a wide range of epileptic phenotypes accompanied by intellectual disability and/or global developmental delay in the investigated patients. Results: We identified four hemizygous sequence variants in the GABAA receptor subunit ε gene (GABRE), including one nonsense (NM_004961.3: c.399C>A, p.Tyr133*), two missense variants (NM_004961.3: c.664G>A, p.Glu222Lys; NM_004961.3: c.1045G>A, p.Val349Ile), and one variant affecting the translation initiation codon (NM_004961.3: c.1A>G, p.Met1?) in four unrelated families. Conclusion: Our clinical and molecular genetic findings suggest that GABRE is a likely candidate gene for epilepsy. Nevertheless, functional studies are necessary to better understand pathogenicity of the GABRE-mutations and their associations with epileptic phenotypes.

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Molecular Genetics and Genomic Medicine
Department of Clinical Genetics

van Markus, F, Angelini, C., Trimouille, A., Rudolf, G., Lesca, G., Goizet, C., … Owczarek-Lipska, M. (2020). Rare variants in the GABAA receptor subunit ε identified in patients with a wide spectrum of epileptic phenotypes. Molecular Genetics and Genomic Medicine, 8(9). doi:10.1002/mgg3.1388