De novo variants in GABRA2 and GABRA5 alter receptor function and contribute to early-onset epilepsy

Kameryn M. Butler, Olivia A. Moody, Elisabeth Schuler, Jason Coryell, John J. Alexander, Andrew Jenkins, Andrew Escayg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


GABAA receptors are ligand-gated anion channels that are important regulators of neuronal inhibition. Mutations in several genes encoding receptor subunits have been identified in patients with various types of epilepsy, ranging from mild febrile seizures to severe epileptic encephalopathy. Using whole-genome sequencing, we identified a novel de novo missense variant in GABRA5 (c.880G >C, p.V294L) in a patient with severe early-onset epilepsy and developmental delay. Targeted resequencing of 279 additional epilepsy patients identified 19 rare variants from nine GABAA receptor genes, including a novel de novo missense variant in GABRA2 (c.875C>A, p.T292K) and a recurrent missense variant in GABRB3 (c.902C>T, p.P301L). Patients with the GABRA2 and GABRB3 variants also presented with severe epilepsy and developmental delay. We evaluated the effects of the GABRA5, GABRA2 and GABRB3 missense variants on receptor function using whole-cell patch-clamp recordings from human embryonic kidney 293T cells expressing appropriate α, β and γ subunits. The GABRA5 p.V294L variant produced receptors that were 10-times more sensitive to GABA but had reduced maximal GABA-evoked current due to increased receptor desensitization. The GABRA2 p.T292K variant reduced channel expression and produced mutant channels that were tonically open, even in the absence of GABA. Receptors containing the GABRB3 p.P301L variant were less sensitive to GABA and produced less GABA-evoked current. These results provide the first functional evidence that de novo variants in the GABRA5 and GABRA2 genes contribute to early-onset epilepsy and developmental delay, and demonstrate that epilepsy can result from reduced neuronal inhibition via a wide range of alterations in GABAA receptor function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2392-2405
Number of pages14
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018


  • Epileptic encephalopathy
  • GABA receptor
  • GABRA2
  • GABRA5
  • GABRB3

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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