Assistant Professor Northwestern University - Feinberg School of Medicine
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Mutations in KCNQ2, which encodes a pore-forming K+channel subunit responsible for neuronal M-current, cause neonatal epileptic encephalopathy, a complex disorder presenting with severe early-onset seizures and impaired neurodevelopment. The condition is exceptionally difficult to treat, partially because the effects of KCNQ2mutations on the development and function of human neurons are unknown. Here, we used induced pluripotent stem cells and gene editing to establish a disease model, and measured the functional properties of patient-derived neurons using electrophysiological and optical approaches at single-cell resolution. We find that while patient-derived excitatory neurons exhibit reduced M-current early, they develop intrinsic and network hyperexcitability progressively. This hyperexcitability is associated with faster action potential repolarization, larger afterhyperpolarization, and a functional enhancement of Ca2+-activated K+(BK and SK) channels. These properties facilitate a burst-suppression firing pattern that is reminiscent of the interictal electroencephalography pattern in patients. Importantly, we were able to phenocopy these excitability features in control neurons only by chronic but not acute pharmacological inhibition of M-current. Our findings suggest that dyshomeostatic mechanisms compound KCNQ2 loss-of-function and lead to alterations in the neurodevelopmental trajectory of patient-derived neurons. Our work has therapeutic implications in explaining why KCNQ2 agonists are not beneficial unless started at an early disease stage.