Unraveling genetic modifiers in the gria4 mouse model of absence epilepsy.

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PLoS Genet 2014 Jul 10; 10(7):e1004454.




Absence epilepsy (AE) is a common type of genetic generalized epilepsy (GGE), particularly in children. AE and GGE are complex genetic diseases with few causal variants identified to date. Gria4 deficient mice provide a model of AE, one for which the common laboratory inbred strain C3H/HeJ (HeJ) harbors a natural IAP retrotransposon insertion in Gria4 that reduces its expression 8-fold. Between C3H and non-seizing strains such as C57BL/6, genetic modifiers alter disease severity. Even C3H substrains have surprising variation in the duration and incidence of spike-wave discharges (SWD), the characteristic electroencephalographic feature of absence seizures. Here we discovered extensive IAP retrotransposition in the C3H substrain, and identified a HeJ-private IAP in the Pcnxl2 gene, which encodes a putative multi-transmembrane protein of unknown function, resulting in decreased expression. By creating new Pcnxl2 frameshift alleles using TALEN mutagenesis, we show that Pcnxl2 deficiency is responsible for mitigating the seizure phenotype - making Pcnxl2 the first known modifier gene for absence seizures in any species. This finding gave us a handle on genetic complexity between strains, directing us to use another C3H substrain to map additional modifiers including validation of a Chr 15 locus that profoundly affects the severity of SWD episodes. Together these new findings expand our knowledge of how natural variation modulates seizures, and highlights the feasibility of characterizing and validating modifiers in mouse strains and substrains in the post-genome sequence era. PLoS Genet 2014 Jul 10; 10(7):e1004454.