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The role of the SCA2 trinucleotide repeat expansion in 89 autosomal dominant cerebellar ataxia families. Frequency, clinical and genetic correlates.

P Giunti, G Sabbadini, M G Sweeney, M B Davis, L Veneziano, E Mantuano, A Federico, R Plasmati, M Frontali, N W Wood
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/121.3.459 459-467 First published online: 1 March 1998


The spinocerebellar ataxia type 2 (SCA2) is caused by a trinucleotide (CAG) expansion in the coding region of the ataxin 2 gene on chromosome 12q.89 families with autosomal dominant cerebellar ataxia (ADCA) types I, II and III, and 47 isolated cases with idiopathic late onset cerebellar ataxia (ILOCA), were analysed for this mutation. The identification of the SCA2 mutation in 31 out of 38 families with the ADCA I phenotype, but in none of those with ADCA II, ADCA III or ILOCA confirms the specificity of this mutation. A clinical comparison of the ADCA I patients with the three known mutations (SCA1, -2 or -3) highlights significant differences between the groups; SCA2 patients tended to have a longer disease duration, a higher frequency of slow saccades and depressed tendon reflexes. However, these neurological signs were also seen in an ADCA I family in which the SCA2 mutation was not identified, illustrating the importance of a direct genetic test. The SCA2 families were from different geographical and ethnic backgrounds. However, haplotype analysis failed to show evidence of a founder mutation, even in families from the same geographical origin. The range of normal alleles varied from 17 to 30 CAG repeats and from 35 to 51 repeats for the pathological alleles. Similar to the other diseases caused by unstable trinucleotide repeats, a significant inverse correlation has been found between the number of repeats and age of onset, and there is a significantly higher paternal instability of repeat length on transmission to offspring. The SCA2 mutation is the most frequent amongst ADCA I patients, accounting for 40%, compared with SCA1 and SCA3 which account for 35% and 15%, respectively.