Background: Peripheral nerve hyperexcitability (PNH) is characterized by muscle overactivity due to spontaneous discharges of lower motor neurons usually associated with antibodies against voltage-gated potassium channels. PNH may also occur in combination with episodic ataxia or epilepsy caused by mutations in K(V)1.1 or K(V)7.2 channels. Only one PNH-associated mutation has been described so far in K(V)7.2 (R207W), in a family with both PNH and neonatal seizures.
Methods: PNH was characterized by video and electromyography. The KCNQ2 gene was sequenced and K(V)7.2 channels were functionally characterized using two-microelectrode voltage-clamping in Xenopus oocytes.
Results: In a patient with PNH without other neurologic symptoms, we identified a novel KCNQ2 mutation predicting loss of a charged residue within the voltage sensor of K(V)7.2 (R207Q). Functional analysis of both PNH-associated mutants revealed large depolarizing shifts of the conductance-voltage relationships and marked slowing of the activation time course compared to wild type (WT) channels, less pronounced for R207Q than R207W. Co-expression of both mutant with WT channels revealed a dominant negative effect reducing the relative current amplitudes after short depolarizations by >70%. The anticonvulsant retigabine, an activator of neuronal K(V)7 channels, reversed the depolarizing shift.
Conclusions: Mutations in KCNQ2 can cause idiopathic PNH alone and should be considered in sporadic cases. Both K(V)7.2 mutants produce PNH by changing voltage-dependent activation with a dominant negative effect on the WT channel. This distinguishes them from all hitherto examined Kv7.2 or K(V)7.3 mutations which cause neonatal seizures by haploinsufficiency. Retigabine may be beneficial in treating PNH.