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Epilepsy Res. 2017 Nov;137:9-18. doi: 10.1016/j.eplepsyres.2017.08.013. Epub 2017 Aug 26.

Defects at the crossroads of GABAergic signaling in generalized genetic epilepsies.

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Departments of Neurology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN, 37232-8552, USA; Affiliated Hospital of Nantong University, Jiangsu, 226001, China; Vanderbilt Brain Institute, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center of Human Development, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, 37232-8522, USA. Electronic address:


Seizure disorders are very common and affect 3% of the general population. The recurrent unprovoked seizures that are also called epilepsies are highly diverse as to both underlying genetic basis and clinic presentations. Recent genetic advances and sequencing technologies indicate that many epilepsies previously thought to be without known causes, or idiopathic generalized epilepsies (IGEs), are virtually genetic epilepsy as they are caused by genetic variations. IGEs are estimated to account for ∼15-20% of all epilepsies. Initially IGEs were primarily considered channelopathies, because the first genetic defects identified in IGEs involved ion channel genes. However, new findings indicate that mutations in many non ion channel genes are also involved in addition to those in ion channel genes. Interestingly, mutations in many genes associated with epilepsy affect GABAergic signaling, a major biological pathway in epilepsy. Additionally, many antiepileptic drugs work via enhancing GABAergic signaling. Hence, the review will focus on the mutations that impair GABAergic signaling and selectively discuss the newly identified STXBP1, PRRT2, and DNM1 in addition to those long-established epilepsy ion channel genes that also impair GABAergic signaling like SCN1A and GABAA receptor subunit genes. GABAergic signaling includes the pre- and post- synaptic mechanisms. Some mutations, such as STXBP1, PRRT2, DNM1, and SCN1A, impair GABAergic signaling mainly via pre-synaptic mechanisms while those mutations in GABAA receptor subunit genes impair GABAergic signaling via post-synaptic mechanisms. Nevertheless, these findings suggest impaired GABAergic signaling is a converging pathway of defects for many ion channel or non ion channel mutations associated with genetic epilepsies.


Epilepsy; GABAergic signaling; Ion channels; Mutations; Non ion channels; Vesicles

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