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Keywords:

  • Genetics;
  • Idiopathic generalized epilepsy;
  • Family studies

Summary: Purpose: In families with idiopathic generalized epilepsy (IGE), multiple IGE subsyndromes may occur. We performed a genetic study of IGE families to clarify the genetic relation of the IGE subsyndromes and to improve understanding of the mode(s) of inheritance.

Methods: Clinical and genealogic data were obtained on probands with IGE and family members with a history of seizures. Families were grouped according to the probands' IGE subsyndrome: childhood absence epilepsy (CAE), juvenile absence epilepsy (JAE), juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME), and IGE with tonic–clonic seizures only (IGE-TCS). The subsyndromes in the relatives were analyzed. Mutations in genes encoding α1 and γ2 γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-receptor subunits, α1 and β1 sodium channel subunits, and the chloride channel CLC-2 were sought.

Results: Fifty-five families were studied. 122 (13%) of 937 first- and second-degree relatives had seizures. Phenotypic concordance within families of CAE and JME probands was 28 and 27%, respectively. JAE and IGE-TCS families had a much lower concordance (10 and 13%), and in the JAE group, 31% of relatives had CAE. JME was rare among affected relatives of CAE and JAE probands and vice versa. Mothers were more frequently affected than fathers. No GABA-receptor or sodium or chloride channel gene mutations were identified.

Conclusions: The clinical genetic analysis of this set of families suggests that CAE and JAE share a close genetic relation, whereas JME is a more distinct entity. Febrile seizures and epilepsy with unclassified tonic–clonic seizures were frequent in affected relatives of all IGE individuals, perhaps representing a nonspecific susceptibility to seizures. A maternal effect also was seen. Our findings are consistent with an oligogenic model of inheritance.