Heterozygous loss of epilepsy gene KCNQ2 alters social, repetitive and exploratory behaviors

Eung Chang Kim, Jaimin Patel, Jiaren Zhang, Heun Soh, Justin S. Rhodes, Anastasios V. Tzingounis, Hee Jung Chung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


KCNQ/Kv7 channels conduct voltage-dependent outward potassium currents that potently decrease neuronal excitability. Heterozygous inherited mutations in their principle subunits Kv7.2/KCNQ2 and Kv7.3/KCNQ3 cause benign familial neonatal epilepsy whereas patients with de novo heterozygous Kv7.2 mutations are associated with early-onset epileptic encephalopathy and neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by intellectual disability, developmental delay and autism. However, the role of Kv7.2-containing Kv7 channels in behaviors especially autism-associated behaviors has not been described. Because pathogenic Kv7.2 mutations in patients are typically heterozygous loss-of-function mutations, we investigated the contributions of Kv7.2 to exploratory, social, repetitive and compulsive-like behaviors by behavioral phenotyping of both male and female KCNQ2+/− mice that were heterozygous null for the KCNQ2 gene. Compared with their wild-type littermates, male and female KCNQ2+/− mice displayed increased locomotor activity in their home cage during the light phase but not the dark phase and showed no difference in motor coordination, suggesting hyperactivity during the inactive light phase. In the dark phase, KCNQ2+/− group showed enhanced exploratory behaviors, and repetitive grooming but decreased sociability with sex differences in the degree of these behaviors. While male KCNQ2+/− mice displayed enhanced compulsive-like behavior and social dominance, female KCNQ2+/− mice did not. In addition to elevated seizure susceptibility, our findings together indicate that heterozygous loss of Kv7.2 induces behavioral abnormalities including autism-associated behaviors such as reduced sociability and enhanced repetitive behaviors. Therefore, our study is the first to provide a tangible link between loss-of-function Kv7.2 mutations and the behavioral comorbidities of Kv7.2-associated epilepsy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12599
JournalGenes, Brain and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • K7 channels
  • KCNQ2
  • anxiety
  • epilepsy
  • excitability
  • locomotion
  • seizures
  • social dominance
  • social interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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