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Eur J Hum Genet. 1998 Jul-Aug;6(4):297-307.

Migraine, ataxia and epilepsy: a challenging spectrum of genetically determined calcium channelopathies. Dutch Migraine Genetics Research Group.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Leiden University Medical Centre, The Netherlands.


Clinical and genetic heterogeneity as well as influence of environmental factors have hampered identification of the genetic factors which are involved in episodic diseases such as migraine, episodic ataxia and epilepsy. The study of rare, but clearly genetically determined subtypes, may help to unravel the pathogenesis of the more common forms. Recently, different types of mutation in the brain-specific P/Q type calcium channel alpha 1A subunit gene (CACNA1A) on chromosome 19p13 were shown to be involved in three human disorders: familial hemiplegic migraine (FHM), episodic ataxia type 2 (EA2), and chronic spinocerebellar ataxia type 6 (SCA6). In addition, evidence is accumulating that the same gene is also involved in the common forms of migraine with and without aura. In the tottering and leaner mouse, which are characterised by epilepsy and ataxia, similar mutations were identified in the mouse homologue of the calcium channel alpha 1A subunit gene. These findings add to the growing list of episodic (and now also chronic) neurological disorders, which are caused by inherited abnormalities of voltage-dependent ion channels. The findings in migraine illustrate that rare, but monogenic variants of a disorder, may be successfully used to identify candidate genes for the more common, but genetically more complex, forms.

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