The nonerythrocytic α-spectrin-1 (SPTAN1) gene encodes the cytoskeletal protein αII spectrin. Mutations in SPTAN1 cause early infantile epileptic encephalopathy type 5 (EIEE5); however, the role of αII spectrin in neurodevelopment and EIEE5 pathogenesis is unknown. Prior work suggests that αII spectrin is absent in the axon initial segment (AIS) and contributes to a diffusion barrier in the distal axon. Here, we have shown that αII spectrin is expressed ubiquitously in rodent and human somatodendritic and axonal domains. CRISPR-mediated deletion of Sptan1 in embryonic rat forebrain by in utero electroporation caused altered dendritic and axonal development, loss of the AIS, and decreased inhibitory innervation. Overexpression of human EIEE5 mutant SPTAN1 in embryonic rat forebrain and mouse hippocampal neurons led to similar developmental defects that were also observed in EIEE5 patient-derived neurons. Additionally, patient-derived neurons displayed aggregation of spectrin complexes. Taken together, these findings implicate αII spectrin in critical aspects of dendritic and axonal development and synaptogenesis, and support a dominant-negative mechanism of SPTAN1 mutations in EIEE5.
Keywords: Development; Epilepsy; Genetic diseases; Neuroscience.