Exploring Neuronal Vulnerability to Head Trauma Using a Whole Exome Approach

Omar Ibrahim, Heidi G. Sutherland, Neven Maksemous, Robert Smith, Larisa M. Haupt, Lyn R. Griffiths

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Brain injuries are associated with oxidative stress and a need to restore neuronal homeostasis. Mutations in ion channel genes, in particular CACNA1A, have been implicated in familial hemiplegic migraine (FHM) and in the development of concussion-related symptoms in response to trivial head trauma. The aim of this study was to explore the potential role of variants in other ion channel genes in the development of such responses. We conducted whole exome sequencing (WES) on16 individuals who developed a range of neurological and concussion-related symptoms following minor or trivial head injuries. All individuals were initially tested and shown to be negative for mutations in known FHM genes. Variants identified from the WES results were filtered to identify rare variants (minor allele frequency [MAF] <0.01) in genes related to neural processes as well as genes highly expressed in the brain using a combination of in silico prediction tools (SIFT, PolyPhen, PredictSNP, Mutation Taster, and Mutation Assessor). Rare (MAF <0.001) or novel heterozygous variants in 7 ion channel genes were identified in 37.5% (6/16) of the cases (CACNA1I, CACNA1C, ATP10A, ATP7B, KCNAB1, KCNJ10, and SLC26A4), rare variants in neurotransmitter genes were found in 2 cases (GABRG1 and GRIK1), and rare variants in 3 ubiquitin-related genes identified in 4 cases (SQSTM1, TRIM2, and HECTD1). In this study, the largest proportion of potentially pathogenic variants in individuals with severe responses to minor head trauma were identified in genes previously implicated in migraine and seizure-related autosomal recessive neurological disorders. Together with results implicating variants in the hemiplegic migraine genes, CACNA1A and ATP1A2, in severe head trauma response, our results support a role for heterozygous deleterious mutations in genes implicated in neurological dysfunction and potentially increasing the risk of poor response to trivial head trauma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1870-1879
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neurotrauma
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • concussion
  • genetics
  • head trauma
  • ion channel
  • neurotransmitters

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