We identify 2 homozygous mutations in the epsilon-subunit of the muscle acetylcholine receptor ( AChR) in 3 patients with severe congenital myasthenia: epsilon R218W in the pre-M1 region in 2 patients and epsilon E184K in the beta 8-beta 9 linker in 1 patient. Arg218 is conserved in all eukaryotic members of the Cysloop receptor superfamily, while Glu184 is conserved in the alpha-, delta-, and epsilon-subunits of AChRs from all species. epsilon R218W reduces channel gating efficiency 338-fold and AChR expression on the cell surface 5-fold, whereas epsilon E184K reduces channel gating efficiency 11-fold but does not alter AChR cell surface expression. Determinations of the effective channel gating rate constants, combined with mutant cycle analyses, demonstrate strong energetic coupling between epsilon R218 and epsilon E184, and between eR218 and epsilon E45 from the beta 1-beta 2 linker, as also observed for equivalent residues in the principal coupling pathway of the alpha-subunit. Thus, efficient and rapid gating of the AChR channel is achieved not only by coupling between conserved residues within the principal coupling pathway of the alpha-subunit, but also between corresponding residues in the epsilon-subunit.