Rare SUDEP SCN5A variants cause changes in channel function implicating cardiac arrhythmia as a cause of death


Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) is a leading cause of premature death in epilepsy. The underlying pathological mechanisms are likely to be multi-factorial. Cardiac arrhythmia has been suggested as a cause of death in some patients with SUDEP. SCN5A encodes the cardiac Nav1.5 sodium channel. SCN5A variants that result in either loss or gain of channel function cause cardiac arrhythmias. Rare SCN5A variants have been reported in SUDEP cases but the impact of these variants on channel function is unknown. Here we use whole-cell voltage clamp recordings to perform functional analyses of rare SCN5A SUDEP variants, p.V223G, p.I397V and p.R523C. Expression and biophysical properties including activation, inactivation and recovery from inactivation were probed. Each SCN5A variant significantly impacted human NaV1.5 channel function indicating that they could cause cardiac arrhythmias. The patient carrying the p.R523C variant was on lamotrigine, an antiseizure medication implicated in SUDEP. Therapeutic concentration of lamotrigine caused a slowing of the rate of recovery from inactivation and a hyperpolarizing shift in the voltage of inactivation of human NaV1.5 wild-type, but not p.R523C channels, implicating a gene-by-drug interaction. These data suggest that SCN5A arrhythmogenic variants may confer increased risk of sudden death in individuals with epilepsy.