Objective: Copy number variants (CNVs) contribute to genetic risk and genetic etiology of both rare and common epilepsies. Whereas many studies have explored the role of CNVs in sporadic or severe cases, fewer have been done in familial generalized and focal epilepsies. Methods: We analyzed exome sequence data from 267 multiplex families and 859 first-degree relative pairs with a diagnosis of genetic generalized epilepsies or nonacquired focal epilepsies to predict CNVs. Validation and segregation studies were performed using an orthogonal method when possible. Results: We identified CNVs likely to contribute to epilepsy risk or etiology in the probands of 43 of 1116 (3.9%) families, including known recurrent CNVs (16p13.11 deletion, 15q13.3 deletion, 15q11.2 deletion, 16p11.2 duplication, 1q21.1 duplication, and 5-Mb duplication of 15q11q13). We also identified CNVs affecting monogenic epilepsy genes, including four families with CNVs disrupting the DEPDC5 gene, and a de novo deletion of HNRNPU in one affected individual from a multiplex family. Several large CNVs (>500 kb) of uncertain clinical significance were identified, including a deletion in 18q, a large duplication encompassing the SCN1A gene, and a 15q13.3 duplication (BP4-BP5). Significance: The overall CNV landscape in common familial epilepsies is similar to that of sporadic epilepsies, with large recurrent deletions at 15q11, 15q13, and 16p13 contributing in 2.5%–3% of families. CNVs that interrupt known epilepsy genes and rare, large CNVs were also identified. Multiple etiologies were found in a subset of families, emphasizing the importance of genetic testing for multiple affected family members. Rare CNVs found in a single proband remain difficult to interpret and require larger cohorts to confirm their potential role in disease. Overall, our work indicates that CNVs contribute to the complex genetic architecture of familial generalized and focal epilepsies, supporting the role for clinical testing in affected individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)792-804
Number of pages13
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2024


  • CNV
  • deletion
  • focal epilepsy
  • generalized epilepsy
  • genetics


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