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J Neurol. 2004 Jan;251(1):35-41.

Polymorphic CAG repeat length in the androgen receptor gene and association with neurodegeneration in a heterozygous female carrier of Kennedy's disease.

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  • 1Centre for Hormone Research, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, University of Melbourne Royal Children's Hospital, Flemington Road, Parkville, Melbourne, Victoria 3052, Australia.


Kennedy's disease (spinobulbar muscular atrophy) is an X-linked form of motor neuron disease affecting adult males carrying a CAG trinucleotide repeat expansion within the androgen receptor gene. While expression of Kennedy's disease is thought to be confined to males carrying the causative mutation, subclinical manifestations have been reported in a few female carriers of the disease. The reasons that females are protected from the disease are not clear, especially given that all other diseases caused by CAG expansions display dominant expression. In the current study, we report the identification of a heterozygote female carrying the Kennedy's disease mutation who was clinically diagnosed with motor neuron disease. We describe analysis of CAG repeat number in this individual as well as 33 relatives within the pedigree, including two male carriers of the Kennedy's mutation. The female heterozygote carried one expanded allele of the androgen receptor gene with CAG repeats numbering in the Kennedy's disease range (44 CAGs),with the normal allele numbering in the uppernormal range (28 CAGs). The subject has two sons, one of whom carries the mutant allele of the gene and has been clinically diagnosed with Kennedy's disease, whilst the other son carries the second allele of the gene with CAGs numbering in the upper normal range and displays a normal phenotype. This coexistence of motor neuron disease and the presence of one expanded allele and one allele at the upper limit of the normal range may be a coincidence. However, we hypothesize that the expression of the Kennedy's disease mutation combined with a second allele with a large but normal CAG repeat sequence may have contributed to the motor neuron degeneration displayed in the heterozygote female and discuss the possible reasons for phenotypic expression in particular individuals.

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