Neurophysiology and Neurogenetics Unit

Pisa, Italy

Neurophysiology and Neurogenetics Unit

Pisa, Italy
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Sicca F.,Neurophysiology and Neurogenetics Unit | Imbrici P.,University of Perugia | D'Adamo M.C.,University of Perugia | Moro F.,Foundation Medicine | And 8 more authors.
Neurobiology of Disease | Year: 2011

The inwardly-rectifying potassium channel Kir4.1 is a major player in the astrocyte-mediated regulation of [K +] o in the brain, which is essential for normal neuronal activity and synaptic functioning. KCNJ10, encoding Kir4.1, has been recently linked to seizure susceptibility in humans and mice, and is a possible candidate gene for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). In this study, we performed a mutational screening of KCNJ10 in 52 patients with epilepsy of "unknown cause" associated with impairment of either cognitive or communicative abilities, or both. Among them, 14 patients fitted the diagnostic criteria for ASD. We identified two heterozygous KCNJ10 mutations (p.R18Q and p.V84M) in three children (two unrelated families) with seizures, ASD, and intellectual disability. The mutations replaced amino acid residues that are highly conserved throughout evolution and were undetected in about 500 healthy chromosomes. The effects of mutations on channel activity were functionally assayed using a heterologous expression system. These studies indicated that the molecular mechanism contributing to the disorder relates to an increase in either surface-expression or conductance of the Kir4.1 channel. Unlike previous syndromic associations of genetic variants in KCNJ10, the pure neuropsychiatric phenotype in our patients suggests that the new mutations affect K + homeostasis mainly in the brain, by acting through gain-of-function defects. Dysfunction in astrocytic-dependent K + buffering may contribute to autism/epilepsy phenotype, by altering neuronal excitability and synaptic function, and may represent a new target for novel therapeutic approaches. © 2011 Elsevier Inc.


Valvo G.,Neurophysiology and Neurogenetics Unit | Baldini S.,Neurophysiology and Neurogenetics Unit | Brachini F.,Neurophysiology and Neurogenetics Unit | Apicella F.,IRCCS Stella Maris Foundation | And 9 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2013

Background:Comorbidity of Autism Spectrum Disorders with seizures or abnormal EEG (Autism-Epilepsy Phenotype) suggests shared pathomechanisms, and might be a starting point to identify distinct populations within the clinical complexity of the autistic spectrum. In this study, we tried to assess whether distinct subgroups, having distinctive clinical hallmarks, emerge from this comorbid condition.Methods:Two-hundred and six individuals with idiopathic Autism Spectrum Disorders were subgrouped into three experimental classes depending on the presence of seizures and EEG abnormalities. Neurobehavioral, electroclinical and auxological parameters were investigated to identify differences among groups and features which increase the risk of seizures. Our statistical analyses used ANOVA, post-hoc multiple comparisons, and the Chi-squared test to analyze continuous and categorical variables. A correspondence analysis was also used to decompose significant Chi-squared and reduce variables dimensions.Results:The high percentage of children with seizures (28.2% of our whole cohort) and EEG abnormalities (64.1%) confirmed that the prevalence of epilepsy in Autism Spectrum Disorders exceeds that of the general population. Seizures were associated with severe intellectual disability, and not with autism severity. Interestingly, tall stature (without macrocephaly) was significantly associated with EEG abnormalities or later onset seizures. However, isolated macrocephaly was equally distributed among groups or associated with early onset seizures when accompanied by tall stature.Conclusions:Tall stature seems to be a phenotypic "biomarker" of susceptibility to EEG abnormalities or late epilepsy in Autism Spectrum Disorders and, when concurring with macrocephaly, predisposes to early onset seizures. Growth pattern might act as an endophenotypic marker in Autism-Epilepsy comorbidity, delineating distinct pathophysiological subtypes and addressing personalized diagnostic work-up and therapeutic approaches. © 2013 Valvo et al.


Valvo G.,Neurophysiology and Neurogenetics Unit | Novara F.,University of Pavia | Brovedani P.,Neurophysiology and Neurogenetics Unit | Ferrari A.R.,Neurophysiology and Neurogenetics Unit | And 4 more authors.
Epilepsy and Behavior | Year: 2012

Chromosome 22q11.2 microduplication syndrome is characterized by a variable and usually mild phenotype and by incomplete penetrance. Neurological features of the syndrome may entail intellectual or learning disability, motor delay, and other neurodevelopmental disorders. However, seizures or abnormal EEG are reported in a few cases. We describe a 6-year-old girl with microduplication of chromosome 22q11.2 and epilepsy with continuous spikes and waves during sleep (CSWS). Her behavioral disorder, characterized by hyperactivity, impulsiveness, attention deficit, and aggressiveness, became progressively evident a few months after epilepsy onset, suggesting a link with the interictal epileptic activity characterizing CSWS. We hypothesize that, at least in some cases, the neurodevelopmental deficit seen in the 22q11.2 microduplication syndrome could be the consequence of a disorder of cerebral electrogenesis, suggesting the need for an EEG recording in affected individuals. Moreover, an array-CGH analysis should be performed in all individuals with cryptogenic epilepsy and CSWS. © 2012 Elsevier Inc.


PubMed | Neurophysiology and Neurogenetics Unit
Type: Case Reports | Journal: Epilepsy & behavior : E&B | Year: 2012

Chromosome 22q11.2 microduplication syndrome is characterized by a variable and usually mild phenotype and by incomplete penetrance. Neurological features of the syndrome may entail intellectual or learning disability, motor delay, and other neurodevelopmental disorders. However, seizures or abnormal EEG are reported in a few cases. We describe a 6-year-old girl with microduplication of chromosome 22q11.2 and epilepsy with continuous spikes and waves during sleep (CSWS). Her behavioral disorder, characterized by hyperactivity, impulsiveness, attention deficit, and aggressiveness, became progressively evident a few months after epilepsy onset, suggesting a link with the interictal epileptic activity characterizing CSWS. We hypothesize that, at least in some cases, the neurodevelopmental deficit seen in the 22q11.2 microduplication syndrome could be the consequence of a disorder of cerebral electrogenesis, suggesting the need for an EEG recording in affected individuals. Moreover, an array-CGH analysis should be performed in all individuals with cryptogenic epilepsy and CSWS.


PubMed | Neurophysiology and Neurogenetics Unit
Type: Journal Article | Journal: PloS one | Year: 2013

Comorbidity of Autism Spectrum Disorders with seizures or abnormal EEG (Autism-Epilepsy Phenotype) suggests shared pathomechanisms, and might be a starting point to identify distinct populations within the clinical complexity of the autistic spectrum. In this study, we tried to assess whether distinct subgroups, having distinctive clinical hallmarks, emerge from this comorbid condition.Two-hundred and six individuals with idiopathic Autism Spectrum Disorders were subgrouped into three experimental classes depending on the presence of seizures and EEG abnormalities. Neurobehavioral, electroclinical and auxological parameters were investigated to identify differences among groups and features which increase the risk of seizures. Our statistical analyses used ANOVA, post-hoc multiple comparisons, and the Chi-squared test to analyze continuous and categorical variables. A correspondence analysis was also used to decompose significant Chi-squared and reduce variables dimensions.The high percentage of children with seizures (28.2% of our whole cohort) and EEG abnormalities (64.1%) confirmed that the prevalence of epilepsy in Autism Spectrum Disorders exceeds that of the general population. Seizures were associated with severe intellectual disability, and not with autism severity. Interestingly, tall stature (without macrocephaly) was significantly associated with EEG abnormalities or later onset seizures. However, isolated macrocephaly was equally distributed among groups or associated with early onset seizures when accompanied by tall stature.Tall stature seems to be a phenotypic biomarker of susceptibility to EEG abnormalities or late epilepsy in Autism Spectrum Disorders and, when concurring with macrocephaly, predisposes to early onset seizures. Growth pattern might act as an endophenotypic marker in Autism-Epilepsy comorbidity, delineating distinct pathophysiological subtypes and addressing personalized diagnostic work-up and therapeutic approaches.

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