UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Pathophysiology of and therapeutic options for a GABRA1 variant linked to epileptic encephalopathy Bai, Yun-Fei; Chiu, Michelle; Chan, Elizabeth S; Axerio-Cilies, Peter; Lu, Jie; Huh, Linda; Connolly, Mary B; Guella, Ilaria; Farrer, Matthew J; Xu, Zhi-Qing D; Liu, Lidong; Demos, Michelle; Wang, Yu T


We report the identification of a de novo GABRA1 (R214C) variant in a child with epileptic encephalopathy (EE), describe its functional characterization and pathophysiology, and evaluate its potential therapeutic options. The GABRA1 (R214C) variant was identified using whole exome sequencing, and the pathogenic effect of this mutation was investigated by comparing wild-type (WT) α1 and R214C α1 GABAA receptor-expressing HEK cells. GABA-evoked currents in these cells were recorded using whole-cell, outside-out macro-patch and cell-attached single-channel patch-clamp recordings. Changes to surface and total protein expression levels of WT α1 and R214C α1 were quantified using surface biotinylation assay and western blotting, respectively. Finally, potential therapeutic options were explored by determining the effects of modulators, including diazepam, insulin, and verapamil, on channel gating and receptor trafficking of WT and R214C GABAA receptors. We found that the GABRA1 (R214C) variant decreased whole-cell GABA-evoked currents by reducing single channel open time and both surface and total GABAA receptor expression levels. The GABA-evoked currents in R214C GABAA receptors could only be partially restored with benzodiazepine (diazepam) and insulin. However, verapamil treatment for 24 h fully restored the function of R214C mutant receptors, primarily by increasing channel open time. We conclude that the GABRA1 (R214C) variant reduces channel activity and surface expression of mutant receptors, thereby contributing to the pathogenesis of genetic EE. The functional restoration by verapamil suggests that it is a potentially new therapeutic option for patients with the R214C variant and highlights the value of precision medicine in the treatment of genetic EEs. CORRECTION TO: Following publication of the original article [1], the authors reported errors in Fig. 4. Specifically, a wrong actin blot is presented in Fig. 4a. In this Correction, the corrected version of Fig. 4 is shown.

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