Focal seizures with affective symptoms are a major feature of PCDH19 gene-related epilepsy

Epilepsia. 2012 Dec;53(12):2111-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1167.2012.03649.x. Epub 2012 Sep 4.


Purpose: Mutations of the protocadherin19 gene (PCDH19) cause a female-related epilepsy of variable severity, with or without mental retardation and autistic features. Despite the increasing number of patients and mutations reported, the epilepsy phenotype associated with PCDH19 mutations is still unclear. We analyzed seizure semiology through ictal video-electroencephalography (EEG) recordings in a large series of patients.

Methods: We studied 35 patients with PCDH19 gene-related epilepsy and analyzed clinical history and ictal video-EEG recordings obtained in 34 of them.

Key findings: Clusters of focal febrile and afebrile seizures had occurred in 34 patients, at a mean age of 10 months. The predominant and more consistent ictal sign was fearful screaming, occurring in 24 patients (70.5%); it was present since epilepsy onset in 12 and appeared later on, during the course in the remaining 12 patients. In infancy, fearful screaming mainly appeared within the context of seizures with prominent hypomotor semiology, whereas during follow-up it was associated with prominent early motor manifestations. In 16 patients, seizures were video-EEG recorded both at onset and during follow-up: in five patients (31%) seizure semiology remained identical, in 7 (44%) semiology varied and in four patients it was unclear whether ictal semiology changed with age. Three patients (9%) had both focal and generalized seizures, the latter consisting of absences and myoclonus. Ictal EEG during focal seizures showed a prominent involvement of the frontotemporal regions (22 patients). About 45% of patients had an alternating EEG pattern, with the ictal discharge migrating from one hemisphere to the contralateral during the same ictal event. Status epilepticus occurred in 30% of patients. Cognitive impairment occurred in 70%, ranging from mild (42%) to moderate (54%) and severe (4%); autistic features occurred in 28.5%. Direct sequencing detected 33 different heterozygous candidate mutations, 8 of which were novel. Mutations were missense substitutions (48.5%), premature termination (10 frameshift, 4 nonsense, and 2 splice-site mutations; 48.5%), and one in-frame deletion. Thirty candidate mutations (91%) were de novo. No specific genotype-phenotype correlation could be established, as missense and truncating mutations were associated with phenotypes of comparable severity.

Significance: Most patients with PCDH19 mutations exhibit a distinctive electroclinical pattern of focal seizures with affective symptoms, suggesting an epileptogenic dysfunction involving the frontotemporal limbic system. Awareness of this distinctive phenotype will likely enhance recognition of this disorder.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affective Symptoms / complications
  • Affective Symptoms / genetics*
  • Cadherins / genetics*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / genetics
  • Computational Biology
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Mutation / genetics*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Seizures / complications
  • Seizures / genetics*
  • Video Recording
  • Young Adult


  • Cadherins
  • PCDH19 protein, human