Rare and common epilepsies converge on a shared gene regulatory network providing opportunities for novel antiepileptic drug discovery

Genome Biol. 2016 Dec 13;17(1):245. doi: 10.1186/s13059-016-1097-7.


Background: The relationship between monogenic and polygenic forms of epilepsy is poorly understood and the extent to which the genetic and acquired epilepsies share common pathways is unclear. Here, we use an integrated systems-level analysis of brain gene expression data to identify molecular networks disrupted in epilepsy.

Results: We identified a co-expression network of 320 genes (M30), which is significantly enriched for non-synonymous de novo mutations ascertained from patients with monogenic epilepsy and for common variants associated with polygenic epilepsy. The genes in the M30 network are expressed widely in the human brain under tight developmental control and encode physically interacting proteins involved in synaptic processes. The most highly connected proteins within the M30 network were preferentially disrupted by deleterious de novo mutations for monogenic epilepsy, in line with the centrality-lethality hypothesis. Analysis of M30 expression revealed consistent downregulation in the epileptic brain in heterogeneous forms of epilepsy including human temporal lobe epilepsy, a mouse model of acquired temporal lobe epilepsy, and a mouse model of monogenic Dravet (SCN1A) disease. These results suggest functional disruption of M30 via gene mutation or altered expression as a convergent mechanism regulating susceptibility to epilepsy broadly. Using the large collection of drug-induced gene expression data from Connectivity Map, several drugs were predicted to preferentially restore the downregulation of M30 in epilepsy toward health, most notably valproic acid, whose effect on M30 expression was replicated in neurons.

Conclusions: Taken together, our results suggest targeting the expression of M30 as a potential new therapeutic strategy in epilepsy.

Keywords: Co-expression; Epilepsy; Epileptic encephalopathy; Protein-protein interactions; Regulatory network; SCN1A; Systems genetics; Valproic acid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Discovery*
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy
  • Epilepsy / genetics*
  • Epilepsy / pathology
  • Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe / genetics*
  • Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe / pathology
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Gene Regulatory Networks / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Multifactorial Inheritance / genetics
  • Mutation
  • NAV1.1 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel / genetics


  • Anticonvulsants
  • NAV1.1 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel
  • Scn1a protein, mouse