We compared the effects of three missense mutations in the GABAA receptor γ2 subunit on GABAA receptor assembly, trafficking and function in HEK293T cells cotransfected with α1, β2, and wildtype or mutant γ2 subunits. The mutations R82Q and P83S were identified in families with genetic epilepsy with febrile seizures plus (GEFS+), and N79S was found in a single patient with generalized tonic-clonic seizures (GTCS). Although all three mutations were located in an N-terminal loop that contributes to the γ+/β- subunit-subunit interface, we found that each mutation impaired GABAA receptor assembly to a different extent. The γ2(R82Q) and γ2(P83S) subunits had reduced α1β2γ2 receptor surface expression due to impaired assembly into pentamers, endoplasmic reticulum (ER) retention and degradation. In contrast, γ2(N79S) subunits were efficiently assembled into GABAA receptors with only minimally altered receptor trafficking, suggesting that N79S was a rare or susceptibility variant rather than an epilepsy mutation. Increased structural variability at assembly motifs was predicted by R82Q and P83S, but not N79S, substitution, suggesting that R82Q and P83S substitutions were less tolerated. Membrane proteins with missense mutations that impair folding and assembly often can be "rescued" by decreased temperatures. We coexpressed wildtype or mutant γ2 subunits with α1 and β2 subunits and found increased surface and total levels of both wildtype and mutant γ2 subunits after decreasing the incubation temperature to 30°C for 24h, suggesting that lower temperatures increased GABAA receptor stability. Thus epilepsy-associated mutations N79S, R82Q and P83S disrupted GABAA receptor assembly to different extents, an effect that could be potentially rescued by facilitating protein folding and assembly.
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