• migraine;
  • calcium channel;
  • CACNA 1A;
  • genetics;
  • chromosome 19p13

A gene for familial hemiplegic migraine, a subtype of migraine with aura, was assigned to chromosome 19p13. In this region, we identified a brain-specific P/Q-type calcium channel α1a-subunit gene, CACNA1A, with 47 exons covering 300 kb. Sequencing of all exons and their flanking surroundings revealed polymorphic variations, including a (CA)0-repeat anti a (CAG)n-repeat in the 34 untranslated region. In patients with familial hemiplegic migraine, we found four different missense mutations in conserved functional domains. One of the mutations has occurred on two different haplotypes in unrelated familial hemiplegic migraine families. Moreover, in episodic ataxia type 2, we found two mutations disrupting the reading frame. Thus, familial hemiplegic migraine and episodic ataxia type 2 can be considered as allelic channelopathies. Involvement of this familial hemiplegic migraine locus in migraine with and without aura was demonstrated by sib-pair analysis. We showed an increase of shared marker alleles of locus D19S394, which is tightly linked to the gene. The association between the α1A calcium channel and familial hemiplegic migraine, and the increase of shared alleles in migraine-affected sib-pairs, have uncovered a new pathway for the pathophysiology of migraine. This finding may provide a rationale for the development of specific prophylactic therapy for migraine and other (paroxysmal) cerebral disorders.