The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

β1-C121W Is Down But Not Out: Epilepsy-Associated Scn1b-C121W Results in a Deleterious Gain-of-Function.

PMID 27277800


Voltage-gated sodium channel (VGSC) β subunits signal through multiple pathways on multiple time scales. In addition to modulating sodium and potassium currents, β subunits play nonconducting roles as cell adhesion molecules, which allow them to function in cell-cell communication, neuronal migration, neurite outgrowth, neuronal pathfinding, and axonal fasciculation. Mutations in SCN1B, encoding VGSC β1 and β1B, are associated with epilepsy. Autosomal-dominant SCN1B-C121W, the first epilepsy-associated VGSC mutation identified, results in genetic epilepsy with febrile seizures plus (GEFS+). This mutation has been shown to disrupt both the sodium-current-modulatory and cell-adhesive functions of β1 subunits expressed in heterologous systems. The goal of this study was to compare mice heterozygous for Scn1b-C121W (Scn1b(+/W)) with mice heterozygous for the Scn1b-null allele (Scn1b(+/-)) to determine whether the C121W mutation results in loss-of-function in vivo We found that Scn1b(+/W) mice were more susceptible than Scn1b(+/-) and Scn1b(+/+) mice to hyperthermia-induced convulsions, a model of pediatric febrile seizures. β1-C121W subunits are expressed at the neuronal cell surface in vivo However, despite this, β1-C121W polypeptides are incompletely glycosylated and do not associate with VGSC α subunits in the brain. β1-C121W subcellular localization is restricted to neuronal cell bodies and is not detected at axon initial segments in the cortex or cerebellum or at optic nerve nodes of Ranvier of Scn1b(W/W) mice. These data, together with our previous results showing that β1-C121W cannot participate in trans-homophilic cell adhesion, lead to the hypothesis that SCN1B-C121W confers a deleterious gain-of-function in human GEFS+ patients. The mechanisms underlying genetic epilepsy syndromes are poorly understood. Closing this gap in knowledge is essential to the development of new medicines to treat epilepsy. We have used mouse models to understand the mechanism of a mutation in the sodium channel gene SCN1B linked to genetic epilepsy with febrile seizures plus. We report that sodium channel β1 subunit proteins encoded by this mutant gene are expressed at the surface of neuronal cell bodies; however, they do not associate with the ion channel complex nor are they transported to areas of the axon that are critical for proper neuronal firing. We conclude that this disease-causing mutation is not simply a loss-of-function, but instead results in a deleterious gain-of-function in the brain.