• Kang JQ, Shen W, Zhou C, Xu D, Macdonald RL. The human epilepsy mutation GABRG2(Q390X) causes chronic subunit accumulation and neurodegeneration. Nature neuroscience. 2015 Jul;18(7). 988-96. PMID: 26005849 [PubMed]. PMCID: PMC4482801. NIHMSID: NIHMS684786.


Genetic epilepsy and neurodegenerative diseases are two common neurological disorders that are conventionally viewed as being unrelated. A subset of patients with severe genetic epilepsies who have impaired development and often go on to die of their disease respond poorly to anticonvulsant drug therapy, suggesting a need for new therapeutic targets. Previously, we reported that multiple GABAA receptor epilepsy mutations result in protein misfolding and abnormal receptor trafficking. We have now developed a model of a severe human genetic epileptic encephalopathy, the Gabrg2(+/Q390X) knock-in mouse. We found that, in addition to impairing inhibitory neurotransmission, mutant GABAA receptor γ2(Q390X) subunits accumulated and aggregated intracellularly, activated caspase 3 and caused widespread, age-dependent neurodegeneration. These findings suggest that the fundamental protein metabolism and cellular consequences of the epilepsy-associated mutant γ2(Q390X) ion channel subunit are not fundamentally different from those associated with neurodegeneration. Our results have far-reaching relevance for the identification of conserved pathological cascades and mechanism-based therapies that are shared between genetic epilepsies and neurodegenerative diseases.