Variants in neuronal voltage-gated sodium channel α-subunits genes SCN1A, SCN2A, and SCN8A are common in early onset epileptic encephalopathies and other autosomal dominant childhood epilepsy syndromes.
The combination of a rare missense variant with a de novo mosaic deletion of a large part of the SCN8A gene suggests that other possible mechanisms for SCN8A mutations may cause epilepsy; loss of function, genetic modifiers and cellular interference may play a role.
In addition, the same SCN8A variant (c.5630A > G, p. (Asn1877Ser)) is also found in patients with epilepsy and developmental delay highlighting the phenotypic variability and the possible role of other protective genetic factors.
The identification of this new gain-of-function mutation of Nav1.6 supports the inclusion of SCN8A as a causative gene in infantile epilepsy, demonstrates a novel mechanism for hyperactivity of Nav1.6, and further expands the role of de novo mutations in severe epilepsy.
Additionally, certain Rbfox1 target transcripts associated with epilepsy, including glutamate receptor, ionotropic, N-methyl D-aspartate 1 [Grin1, also known as N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor subunit NR1 (NMDAR1)], synaptosomal-associated protein, 25 kDa (SNAP‑25 or Snap25) and sodium channel, voltage gated, type VIII, alpha subunit (Scn8a, also known as Nav1.6) were identified to be upregulated in these cultured cortical neurons with an upregulated Rbfox1 expression.
This work identifies SCN8A as the fifth sodium-channel gene to be mutated in epilepsy and demonstrates the value of WGS for the identification of pathogenic mutations causing severe, sporadic neurological disorders.
Our results demonstrate that variants in Scn2a, Kcnq2, and Scn8a can dramatically influence the phenotype of mice carrying the Scn1a-R1648H mutation and suggest that ion channel variants may contribute to the clinical variation seen in patients with monogenic epilepsy.
Mutations in SCN8A are associated with cognitive deficits and neuropsychiatric illness in humans and movement disorders in mice; however, a role for SCN8A (Na(v)1.6) in epilepsy has not been investigated.