Arrhythmia in heart and brain: KCNQ1 mutations link epilepsy and sudden unexplained death

Sci Transl Med. 2009 Oct 14;1(2):2ra6. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3000289.


Sudden unexplained death is a catastrophic complication of human idiopathic epilepsy, causing up to 18% of patient deaths. A molecular mechanism and an identified therapy have remained elusive. Here, we find that epilepsy occurs in mouse lines bearing dominant human LQT1 mutations for the most common form of cardiac long QT syndrome, which causes syncopy and sudden death. KCNQ1 encodes the cardiac KvLQT1 delayed rectifier channel, which has not been previously found in the brain. We have shown that, in these mice, this channel is found in forebrain neuronal networks and brainstem nuclei, regions in which a defect in the ability of neurons to repolarize after an action potential, as would be caused by this mutation, can produce seizures and dysregulate autonomic control of the heart. That long QT syndrome mutations in KCNQ1 cause epilepsy reveals the dual arrhythmogenic potential of an ion channelopathy coexpressed in heart and brain and motivates a search for genetic diagnostic strategies to improve risk prediction and prevention of early mortality in persons with seizure disorders of unknown origin.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / genetics*
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / physiopathology
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Death, Sudden*
  • Electrocardiography
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsy / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • KCNQ1 Potassium Channel / chemistry
  • KCNQ1 Potassium Channel / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Point Mutation*
  • Potassium Channels, Voltage-Gated / genetics
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • KCNE1 protein, human
  • KCNQ1 Potassium Channel
  • Potassium Channels, Voltage-Gated