Genetics of Idiopathic Epilepsies


Address correspondence and reprints requests to Dr. S. Hirose at Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, Fukuoka University, 45-1, 7-chome Nanakuma, Jonan-ku, Fukuoka 814-0180, Japan. E-mail:


Summary: Purpose: To search for clues to molecular genetics of common idiopathic epilepsy syndromes. Genetic defects have been identified recently in certain inherited epilepsy syndromes in which the phenotypes are similar to those of common idiopathic epilepsies.

Methods: Mutations identified as the causes of inherited idiopathic epilepsies were reviewed.

Results: Mutations of the genes encoding two subunits of the neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptor were found in autosomal dominant nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy. Mutations of two K+-channel genes were identified in benign familial neonatal convulsions. Mutations of the genes encoding several subunits of the voltage-gated Na+-channel and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)A receptor also were identified as the underlying causes of various epilepsy syndromes, such as autosomal dominant epilepsy with febrile seizures plus, benign familial neonatal infantile seizures, and autosomal dominant juvenile myoclonic epilepsy. Mutations within the same gene may result in different epilepsy phenotypes. Thus, the Na+ channel, GABAA receptor, and their auxiliaries may be involved in the pathogenesis of various types of epilepsy. Some forms of juvenile myoclonic epilepsy, idiopathic generalized epilepsy, and absence epilepsy may result from mutations of Ca2+ channels. Mutations of the Cl channel have been recently found to be associated with a certain type of epilepsy. The recent discovery that mutations of LGI1, a gene encoding a nonchannel molecule, are associated with autosomal partial epilepsy with auditory features may provide a new insight into our understanding of the genetics of idiopathic epilepsy.

Conclusions: These findings suggest the involvement of brain channelopathies in the pathogenesis of certain types of idiopathic epilepsy.