Sudden unexplained death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is the most common cause of premature mortality in epilepsy and was linked to mutations in ion channels; however, genes within the channel protein interactome might also represent pathogenic candidates. Here we show that mice with partial deficiency of Sentrin/SUMO-specific protease 2 (SENP2) develop spontaneous seizures and sudden death. SENP2 is highly enriched in the hippocampus, often the focus of epileptic seizures. SENP2 deficiency results in hyper-SUMOylation of multiple potassium channels known to regulate neuronal excitability. We demonstrate that the depolarizing M-current conducted by Kv7 channel is significantly diminished in SENP2-deficient hippocampal CA3 neurons, primarily responsible for neuronal hyperexcitability. Following seizures, SENP2-deficient mice develop atrioventricular conduction blocks and cardiac asystole. Both seizures and cardiac conduction blocks can be prevented by retigabine, a Kv7 channel opener. Thus, we uncover a disease-causing role for hyper-SUMOylation in the nervous system and establish an animal model for SUDEP.
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