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De novo pathogenic variants in neuronal differentiation factor 2 (NEUROD2) cause a form of early infantile epileptic encephalopathy


Background Early infantile epileptic encephalopathies are severe disorders consisting of early-onset refractory seizures accompanied often by significant developmental delay. The increasing availability of next-generation sequencing has facilitated the recognition of single gene mutations as an underlying aetiology of some forms of early infantile epileptic encephalopathies.

Objectives This study was designed to identify candidate genes as a potential cause of early infantile epileptic encephalopathy, and then to provide genetic and functional evidence supporting patient variants as causative.

Methods We used whole exome sequencing to identify candidate genes. To model the disease and assess the functional effects of patient variants on candidate protein function, we used in vivo CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing and protein overexpression in frog tadpoles.

Results We identified novel de novo variants in neuronal differentiation factor 2 (NEUROD2) in two unrelated children with early infantile epileptic encephalopathy. Depleting neurod2 with CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing induced spontaneous seizures in tadpoles, mimicking the patients’ condition. Overexpression of wild-type NEUROD2 induced ectopic neurons in tadpoles; however, patient variants were markedly less effective, suggesting that both variants are dysfunctional and likely pathogenic.

Conclusion This study provides clinical and functional support for NEUROD2 variants as a cause of early infantile epileptic encephalopathy, the first evidence of human disease caused by NEUROD2 variants.

  • neurod2
  • neuronal differentiation factor
  • epileptic encephalopathy
  • epilepsy and seizures
  • xenopus
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