New gain-of-function mutation shows CACNA1D as recurrently mutated gene in autism spectrum disorders and epilepsy

Hum Mol Genet. 2017 Aug 1;26(15):2923-2932. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddx175.


CACNA1D encodes the pore-forming α1-subunit of Cav1.3, an L-type voltage-gated Ca2+-channel. Despite the recent discovery of two de novo missense gain-of-function mutations in Cav1.3 in two individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and intellectual disability CACNA1D has not been considered a prominent ASD-risk gene in large scale genetic analyses, since such studies primarily focus on likely-disruptive genetic variants. Here we report the discovery and characterization of a third de novo missense mutation in CACNA1D (V401L) in a patient with ASD and epilepsy. For the functional characterization we introduced mutation V401L into two major C-terminal long and short Cav1.3 splice variants, expressed wild-type or mutant channel complexes in tsA-201 cells and performed whole-cell patch-clamp recordings. Mutation V401L, localized within the channel's activation gate, significantly enhanced current densities, shifted voltage dependence of activation and inactivation to more negative voltages and reduced channel inactivation in both Cav1.3 splice variants. Altogether, these gating changes are expected to result in enhanced Ca2+-influx through the channel, thus representing a strong gain-of-function phenotype. Additionally, we also found that mutant channels retained full sensitivity towards the clinically available Ca2+ -channel blocker isradipine. Our findings strengthen the evidence for CACNA1D as a novel candidate autism risk gene and encourage experimental therapy with available channel-blockers for this mutation. The additional presence of seizures and neurological abnormalities in our patient define a novel phenotype partially overlapping with symptoms in two individuals with PASNA (congenital primary aldosteronism, seizures and neurological abnormalities) caused by similar Cav1.3 gain-of-function mutations.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / genetics*
  • Calcium Channels, L-Type / genetics*
  • Calcium Channels, L-Type / metabolism
  • Child
  • Epilepsy / genetics
  • Epilepsy / metabolism
  • Gain of Function Mutation / genetics
  • Humans
  • Ion Channel Gating / physiology
  • Male
  • Mutation
  • Mutation, Missense
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Seizures / genetics


  • CACNA1D protein, human
  • Calcium Channels, L-Type