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Biol Psychiatry. 2006 Jul 15;60(2):177-85. Epub 2006 Feb 21.

Ion channel functional candidate genes in multigenic neuropsychiatric disease.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, Section of Human Genetics, University of California, Irvine, California 92697-4034, USA.


Scores of monogenic Mendelian ion channel diseases serve to anchor the pathophysiology of the channelopathies, but there are also now clear examples of environmental, pharmacogenetic, and acquired channelopathy mechanisms. The cardinal feature of heritable ion channel disease is a periodic disturbance of rhythmic function in constitutionally hyperexcitable tissue. While the complexity of neuroanatomy obscures functional analysis of mutations causing monogenic seizure, ataxia, or migraine syndromes, extrapolation from the cardiac (Long QT [LQT]) and muscle (Periodic Paralysis) channelopathy syndromes provides a simplified predictive framework of molecular pathology: electrically stabilizing potassium ion (K(+)) and chloride ion (Cl(-)) channels, likely having lesions that diminish their current, and excitatory Na(+) channels, likely having gain-of-function lesions. The voltage-gated calcium channel gene family that contains CACNA1C, the newest LQT locus, causing Timothy Syndrome with a phenotype including autism, has proven to be particularly informative for its members' ability to tie the various central nervous system (CNS) phenotypes together in an interpretable fashion, now including direct extension to the classically multigenic neuropsychiatric phenotypes. Features of a promising ion channel candidate gene arise from its broad locus, gene family, nature of alleles, physiology and pharmacology, tissue expression profile, and phenotype in model organisms. KCNN3 is explored as a paradigm to consider.

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