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Genes with multiple co-active promoters appear common in brain, yet little is known about functional requirements for these potentially redundant genomic regulatory elements. SCN1A, which encodes the NaV1.1 sodium channel alpha subunit, is one such gene with two co-active promoters. Mutations in SCN1A are associated with epilepsy, including Dravet Syndrome (DS). The majority of DS patients harbor coding mutations causing SCN1A haploinsufficiency, however putative causal non-coding promoter mutations have been identified. To determine the functional role of one of these potentially redundant Scn1a promoters, we focused on the non-coding Scn1a 1b regulatory region, previously described as a non-canonical alternative transcriptional start site. Mice harboring a deletion of the extended evolutionarily-conserved 1b non-coding interval exhibited surprisingly severe reductions of Scn1a and NaV1.1 expression in brain with accompanying electroencephalographic seizures and behavioral deficits. This work identified the 1b region as a critical disease-relevant regulatory element and provides evidence that non-canonical and seemingly redundant promoters can have essential function.

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