A GABA(A) receptor α6 subunit mutation, R46W, was identified as a susceptibility gene that may contribute to the pathogenesis of childhood absence epilepsy (CAE), but the molecular basis for alteration of GABA(A) receptor function is unclear. The R46W mutation is located in a region homologous to a GABA(A) receptor γ2 subunit missense mutation, R82Q, that is associated with CAE and febrile seizures in humans. To determine how this mutation reduces GABAergic inhibition, we expressed wild-type (α6β2γ2L and α6β2δ) and mutant (α6(R46W)β2γ2L and α6(R46W)β2δ) receptors in HEK 293T cells and characterize their whole-cell and single-channel currents, and surface and total levels. We demonstrated that gating and assembly of both α6(R46W)β2γ2L and α6(R46W)β2δ receptors were impaired. Compared to wild-type currents, α6(R46W)β2γ2L and α6(R46W)β2δ receptors had a reduced current density, α6(R46W)β2γ2L currents desensitized to a greater extent and deactivated at a slower rate, α6(R46W)β2δ receptors did not desensitize but deactivated faster and both α6(R46W)β2γ2L and α6(R46W)β2δ single-channel current mean open times and burst durations were reduced. Surface levels of coexpressed α6(R46W), β2 and δ, but not γ2L, subunits were decreased. 'Heterozygous' coexpression of α6(R46W) and α6 subunits with β2 and γ2L subunits produced intermediate macroscopic current amplitudes by increasing incorporation of wild-type and decreasing incorporation of mutant subunits into receptors trafficked to the surface. Finally, these findings suggest that similar to the γ2(R82Q) mutation, the CAE-associated α6(R46W) mutation could cause neuronal disinhibition and thus increase susceptibility to generalized seizures through a reduction of αβγ and αβδ receptor function and expression.