Aberrant Nav1.6 activity can induce hyperexcitability associated with epilepsy. Gain-of-function mutations in the SCN8A gene encoding Nav1.6 are linked to epilepsy development; however, the molecular mechanisms mediating these changes are remarkably heterogeneous and may involve post-translational regulation of Nav1.6. Because calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) is a powerful modulator of Nav1.6 channels, we investigated whether CaMKII modulates disease-linked Nav1.6 mutants. Whole-cell voltage clamp recordings in ND7/23 cells show that CaMKII inhibition of the epilepsy-related mutation R850Q largely recapitulates the effects previously observed for WT Nav1.6. We also characterized a rare missense variant, R639C, located within a regulatory hotspot for CaMKII modulation of Nav1.6. Prediction software algorithms and electrophysiological recordings revealed gain-of-function effects for R639C mutant channel activity, including increased sodium currents and hyperpolarized activation compared to WT Nav1.6. Importantly, the R639C mutation ablates CaMKII phosphorylation at a key regulatory site, T642, and, in contrast to WT and R850Q channels, displays a distinct response to CaMKII inhibition. Computational simulations demonstrate that modeled neurons harboring the R639C or R850Q mutations are hyperexcitable, and simulating the effects of CaMKII inhibition on Nav1.6 activity in modeled neurons differentially reduced hyperexcitability. Acute CaMKII inhibition may represent a promising mechanism to attenuate gain-of-function effects produced by Nav1.6 mutations.
Keywords: CaMKII; Nav1.6; electrophysiology; phosphorylation; post-translational modification (PTM); sodium channel.