Epilepsy Genetics Group
Epilepsy encompasses a group of heterogeneous brain diseases that affect more than 50 million people worldwide. Based initially on family and twin studies, emerging evidence suggests that genetic factors play a major role in the etiology of at least 50% of epilepsies. Genetic generalized epilepsies (GGEs) represent the most common form of genetically determined epilepsies (PMID:29741207). Up to date, the genetic basis of common GGE syndromes remains largely unsolved due to their prominent polygenic predisposition and extensive genetic heterogeneity. Our current knowledge of the complex genetic architecture of common GGE syndromes suggests that rare deleterious gene mutations and common polygenic variation act synergistically and converge on shared gene networks controlling excitability and synchronization of neural circuits underlying epileptogenesis. Heritability analyses implicate that at least 35% of GGE susceptibility is determined by single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Based on the common disease – common variants (CDCV) hypothesis, our research group aims to disentangle the complex genetics basis of common GGE syndromes, using genome-wide linkage, copy number variation (CNV), SNP-based association (GWAS) and whole exome sequencing (WES) studies (DFG Research Group 2715: Epileptogenesis of Genetic Epilepsies). Given that most GGE-associated SNPs reside in non-coding genomic regions, we are exploring the prevailing view that causal SNPs in non-coding regions exert a regulatory effect on the transcriptional activity of adjacent genes by an allelic functional alteration of cis-acting epigenetic elements, such as promoters, enhancers and insulators. Accordingly, epigenomic profiling of GGE-associated rSNPs will gain critical insights into temporospatial neurobiological processes of epileptogenesis. Predictive modeling of key pathways of epileptogenesis and delineation of individual epigenomic risk profiles of GGE may be of relevance towards precision medicine (PMID:32413583).
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