Homozygous STXBP1 variant causes encephalopathy and gain-of-function in synaptic transmission

Brain. 2020 Feb 1;143(2):441-451. doi: 10.1093/brain/awz391.


Heterozygous mutations in the STXBP1 gene encoding the presynaptic protein MUNC18-1 cause STXBP1 encephalopathy, characterized by developmental delay, intellectual disability and epilepsy. Impaired mutant protein stability leading to reduced synaptic transmission is considered the main underlying pathogenetic mechanism. Here, we report the first two cases carrying a homozygous STXBP1 mutation, where their heterozygous siblings and mother are asymptomatic. Both cases were diagnosed with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. In Munc18-1 null mouse neurons, protein stability of the disease variant (L446F) is less dramatically affected than previously observed for heterozygous disease mutants. Neurons expressing Munc18L446F showed minor changes in morphology and synapse density. However, patch clamp recordings demonstrated that L446F causes a 2-fold increase in evoked synaptic transmission. Conversely, paired pulse plasticity was reduced and recovery after stimulus trains also. Spontaneous release frequency and amplitude, the readily releasable vesicle pool and the kinetics of short-term plasticity were all normal. Hence, the homozygous L446F mutation causes a gain-of-function phenotype regarding release probability and synaptic transmission while having less impact on protein levels than previously reported (heterozygous) mutations. These data show that STXBP1 mutations produce divergent cellular effects, resulting in different clinical features, while sharing the overarching encephalopathic phenotype (developmental delay, intellectual disability and epilepsy).

Keywords: STXBP1; Lennox-Gastaut syndrome; epilepsy; neurodevelopmental disorder; synaptic transmission.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Diseases / genetics*
  • Epilepsy / genetics
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology
  • Gain of Function Mutation / genetics*
  • Intellectual Disability / genetics
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Munc18 Proteins / genetics*
  • Synaptic Transmission / genetics*


  • Munc18 Proteins
  • Stxbp1 protein, mouse