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09.11.2021: Publication Alert - High-throughput Evaluation of Epilepsy-associated KCNQ2 Variants Reveals Functional and Pharmacological Heterogeneity

Hundreds of KCNQ2 variants have been identified by genetic testing of children with early onset epilepsy and/or developmental disability. Voltage-clamp recording from heterologous cells has proved useful for establishing deleterious functional effects of KCNQ2 variants, but procedures adapting these assays for standardized, higher throughput data collection and reporting are lacking.

Abstract:

Hundreds of KCNQ2 variants have been identified by genetic testing of children with early onset epilepsy and/or developmental disability. Voltage-clamp recording from heterologous cells has proved useful for establishing deleterious functional effects of KCNQ2 variants, but procedures adapting these assays for standardized, higher throughput data collection and reporting are lacking. In this study, we employed automated patch clamp recording to assess in parallel the functional and pharmacological properties of 79 missense and 2 in-frame deletion variants of KCNQ2. Among the variants we studied were a training set of 18 pathogenic variants previously studied by voltage-clamp recording, 24 mostly rare population variants, and 39 disease-associated variants with unclear functional effects. Variant KCNQ2 subunits were transiently expressed in a cell line stably expressing KCNQ3 to reconstitute the physiologically relevant channel complex. Variants with severe loss-of-function were also co-expressed 1:1 with WT KCNQ2 in the KCNQ3 cell line to mimic the heterozygous genotype and assess dominant-negative behavior. In total, we analyzed electrophysiological data recorded from 9,480 cells. The functional properties of WT KCNQ2/KCNQ3 channels and pharmacological responses to known blockers and activators determined by automated patch clamp recording were highly concordant with previous findings. Similarly, functional properties of 18 known pathogenic variants largely matched previously published results and the validated automated patch clamp assay. Many of the 39 previously unstudied disease-associated KCNQ2 variants exhibited prominent loss-of-function and dominant-negative effects, providing strong evidence in support of pathogenicity. All variants, exhibit response to retigabine (10 µM), although there were differences in maximal responses. Variants within the ion selectivity filter exhibited the weakest responses whereas retigabine had the strongest effect on gain-of-function variants in the voltage-sensor domain. Our study established a high throughput method to detect deleterious functional consequences of KCNQ2 variants. We demonstrated that dominant-negative loss-of-function is a common mechanism associated with missense KCNQ2 variants but this does not occur with rare population variation in this gene. Importantly, we observed genotype-dependent differences in the response of KCNQ2 variants to retigabine.

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