Paradoxical hyperexcitability from NaV1.2 sodium channel loss in neocortical pyramidal cells

Cell Rep. 2021 Aug 3;36(5):109483. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2021.109483.


Loss-of-function variants in the gene SCN2A, which encodes the sodium channel NaV1.2, are strongly associated with autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability. An estimated 20%-30% of children with these variants also suffer from epilepsy, with altered neuronal activity originating in neocortex, a region where NaV1.2 channels are expressed predominantly in excitatory pyramidal cells. This is paradoxical, as sodium channel loss in excitatory cells would be expected to dampen neocortical activity rather than promote seizure. Here, we examined pyramidal neurons lacking NaV1.2 channels and found that they were intrinsically hyperexcitable, firing high-frequency bursts of action potentials (APs) despite decrements in AP size and speed. Compartmental modeling and dynamic-clamp recordings revealed that NaV1.2 loss prevented potassium channels from properly repolarizing neurons between APs, increasing overall excitability by allowing neurons to reach threshold for subsequent APs more rapidly. This cell-intrinsic mechanism may, therefore, account for why SCN2A loss-of-function can paradoxically promote seizure.

Keywords: NaV1.2; SCN2A; autism; autism spectrum disorder; dendrite; dynamic clamp; epilepsy; prefrontal cortex; pyramidal cell.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Dendrites / metabolism
  • Gene Deletion
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • NAV1.2 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel / metabolism*
  • Neocortex / cytology*
  • Pyramidal Cells / metabolism*


  • NAV1.2 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel