An intronic polymorphism in the SCN1A gene, which encodes a neuronal sodium-channel alpha subunit, has been previously associated with the dosing of two commonly used antiepileptic drugs that elicit their pharmacologic action primarily at this ion-channel subunit. This study sought to characterize the functional effects of this polymorphism on alternative splicing of SCN1A and to explore the potential for modulating the drug response in the pharmacologically unfavorable genotype by identification of a splice modifier acting on SCN1A. The effects of the genotype at the SCN1A IVS5N+5 G-->A polymorphism on SCN1A splice-variant proportions and the consequences of increased expression of splice modifiers were investigated both in human temporal neocortex tissue and in a cellular minigene expression system. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction was used to quantify the amounts of SCN1A transcripts forms. We show that the polymorphism has a dramatic effect on the proportions of neonate and adult alternative transcripts of SCN1A in adult brain tissue and that the effect of the polymorphism also appears to be modified by Nova2 expression levels. A minigene expression system confirms both the effect of the polymorphism on transcript proportions and the role of Nova2 in the regulation of splicing, with higher Nova2 expression increasing the proportion of the neonate form. A larger Nova2-mediated effect was detected in the AA genotype that is associated with increased dose requirements. The effects of Nova2 on modulation of the alternative splicing of 17 other neuronally expressed genes were investigated, and no effect was observed. These findings emphasize the emerging role of genetic polymorphisms in modulation of drug effect and illustrate both alternative splicing as a potential therapeutic target and the importance of considering the activity of compounds at alternative splice forms of drug targets in screening programs.
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