The purpose of the study was to explore the pathogenic mechanisms underlying generalized epilepsy and febrile seizures plus (GEFS+) in a family with a novel γ2 subunit gene (GABRG2) frameshift mutation. Four affected and one unaffected individuals carried a c.1329delC GABRG2 mutation resulting in a subunit [γ2S(S443delC)] with a modified and elongated carboxy-terminus that is different from that of the wildtype γ2S subunit. We expressed the wildtype γ2S subunit and the predicted mutant γ2S(S443delC) subunit cDNAs in HEK293T cells and performed immunoblotting, flow cytometry and electrophysiology studies. The mutant subunit was translated as a stable protein that was larger than the wildtype γ2S subunit and was retained in the ER and not expressed on the cell surface membrane, suggesting GABRG2 haploinsufficiency. Peak GABA-evoked currents recorded from cells cotransfected with wildtype α1 and β2 subunits and mutant γ2S subunits were significantly decreased and were comparable to α1β2 receptor currents. S443delC is the first GABR epilepsy mutation predicted to abolish the natural stop codon and produce a stop codon in the 3' UTR that leads to translation of an extended peptide. The GEFS+ phenotype observed in this family is likely caused by γ2S subunit loss-of-function and possibly to dominant-negative suppression of α1β2γ2 receptors. Many GABRG2 truncation mutations result in GEFS+, but the spectrum of phenotypic severity is wider, ranging from asymptomatic individuals to the Dravet syndrome. Mechanisms influencing the severity of the phenotype are therefore complex and difficult to correlate with its demonstrable functional effects.
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