Abnormal expression of GABAA receptor subunits and hypomotility upon loss of gabra1 in zebrafish

Biol Open. 2020 Apr 13;9(4):bio051367. doi: 10.1242/bio.051367.


We used whole-exome sequencing (WES) to determine the genetic etiology of a patient with a multi-system disorder characterized by a seizure phenotype. WES identified a heterozygous de novo missense mutation in the GABRA1 gene (c.875C>T). GABRA1 encodes the alpha subunit of the gamma-aminobutyric acid receptor A (GABAAR). The GABAAR is a ligand gated ion channel that mediates the fast inhibitory signals of the nervous system, and mutations in the subunits that compose the GABAAR have been previously associated with human disease. To understand the mechanisms by which GABRA1 regulates brain development, we developed a zebrafish model of gabra1 deficiency. gabra1 expression is restricted to the nervous system and behavioral analysis of morpholino injected larvae suggests that the knockdown of gabra1 results in hypoactivity and defects in the expression of other subunits of the GABAAR. Expression of the human GABRA1 protein in morphants partially restored the hypomotility phenotype. In contrast, the expression of the c.875C>T variant did not restore these behavioral deficits. Collectively, these results represent a functional approach to understand the mechanisms by which loss-of-function alleles cause disease.

Keywords: Development; GABRA1; Genetics; Locomotion; Zebrafish.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Gene Expression*
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Larva
  • Locomotion / genetics
  • Motor Activity / genetics*
  • Mutation
  • Phenotype
  • Protein Subunits / chemistry
  • Protein Subunits / genetics*
  • Receptors, GABA-A / chemistry
  • Receptors, GABA-A / genetics*
  • Receptors, GABA-A / metabolism
  • Zebrafish*


  • Protein Subunits
  • Receptors, GABA-A