Epilepsy and episodic ataxia type 2: family study and review of the literature.

Episodic ataxia type 2 (EA2) is a hereditary disorder characterized by paroxysmal attacks of ataxia, vertigo and nausea, due to mutations in the CACNA1A gene, which encodes for α1 subunit of the P/Q-type voltage-gated Ca2+ channel (CaV2.1). Other manifestations may be associated to CACNA1A mutations, such as migraine and epilepsy. The correlation between episodic ataxia and epilepsy is often underestimated and misdiagnosed. Clinical presentation of EA2 varies among patients and within the same family, and the same genetic mutation can lead to different clinical phenotypes. We herewith describe an Italian family presenting with typical EA2 and, in two of the family members (patients II.3 and III.1), epileptic seizures. The sequencing revealed a heterozygous deletion of 6 nucleotides in exon 28 of CACNA1A gene, present in all affected patients. Evidence suggests that mutations of CACNA1A, conferring a loss/reduction of CaV2.1 function, lead to an increase of thalamocortical excitation that contributes to epileptiform discharges. Our description highlights intra-family variability of EA2 phenotype and suggests that mutations in the CACNA1A gene should be suspected in individuals with focal or generalized epilepsy, associated with a family history of episodic ataxia.


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Authors: Lorenzo Verriello, Giada Pauletto, Annacarmen Nilo, Incoronata Lonigro, Elena Betto, Mariarosaria Valente, Francesco Curcio, Gian Luigi Gigli