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2021 - Analysing an allelic series of rare missense variants of CACNA1I in a Swedish schizophrenia cohort

icon sp96 SyncroPatch 384PE (a predecessor model of the SyncroPatch 384 instrument) Publication in Brain: A Journal of Neurology (2021)

Baez-Nieto D., Allen A., Akers-Campbell S., Yang L., Budnik N., Pupo A., Shin Y-C., Genovese G., Liao M., Pérez-Palma E., Heyne H., Lal D., Lipscombe D., Pan J.Q.


Brain: A Journal of Neurology (2021) doi:10.1093/brain/awab443


CACNA1I is implicated in the susceptibility to schizophrenia by large-scale genetic association studies of single nucleotide polymorphisms. However, the channelopathy of CACNA1I in schizophrenia is unknown. CACNA1I encodes CaV3.3, a neuronal voltage-gated calcium channel that underlies a subtype of T-type current that is important for neuronal excitability in the thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN) and other regions of the brain. Here, we present an extensive functional characterization of 57 naturally occurring rare and common missense variants of CACNA1I derived from a Swedish schizophrenia cohort of more than 10,000 individuals. Our analysis of this allelic series of coding CACNA1I variants revealed that reduced CaV3.3 channel current density was the dominant phenotype associated with rare CACNA1I coding alleles derived from control subjects, whereas rare CACNA1I alleles from schizophrenia patients encoded CaV3.3 channels with altered responses to voltages. CACNA1I variants associated with altered current density primarily impact the ionic channel pore, and those associated with altered responses to voltage impact the voltage-sensing domain. CaV3.3 variants associated with altered voltage dependence of the CaV3.3 channel and those associated with peak current density deficits were significantly segregated across affected and unaffected groups (Fisher’s exact test, P = 0.034). Our results, together with recent data from the SCHEMA (Schizophrenia Exome Sequencing Meta-analysis) cohort, suggest that reduced CaV3.3 function may protect against schizophrenia risk in rare cases. We subsequently modeled the effect of the biophysical properties of CaV3.3 channel variants on TRN excitability and found that compared with common variants, ultrarare CaV3.3 coding variants derived from control subjects significantly decreased TRN excitability (P = 0.011). When all rare variants were analyzed, there was a nonsignificant trend between variants that reduced TRN excitability and variants that either had no effect or increased TRN excitability across disease status. Taken together, the results of our functional analysis of an allelic series of >50 CACNA1I variants in a schizophrenia cohort reveal that loss of function of CaV3.3 is a molecular phenotype associated with reduced disease risk burden, and our approach may serve as a template strategy for channelopathies in polygenic disorders.

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