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SYNE1-Related Autosomal Recessive Cerebellar Ataxia

, MD, MSc, , PhD, , MD, , MSc, and , MD, PhD.

Author Information

Initial Posting: ; Last Revision: October 13, 2011.


Clinical characteristics.

SYNE1-related autosomal recessive cerebellar ataxia (also known as autosomal recessive cerebellar ataxia type 1 or ARCA1) is characterized by onset of cerebellar ataxia and/or dysarthria at a mean age of 31 years (range 17-46 years). Over time, all affected individuals develop significant dysarthria and ataxia. Other associated features can include dysmetria, brisk lower-extremity tendon reflexes, and minor abnormalities in ocular saccades and pursuit. Disease progression is slow, resulting in moderate disability. Life expectancy appears to be normal.


Diagnosis is based on clinical findings and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which invariably shows (at the time of diagnosis) marked diffuse cerebellar atrophy with no other abnormalities. SYNE1 is the only gene in which mutation is currently known to cause ARCA1.


Treatment of manifestations: Walking aids such as a cane, a walker, and ultimately a wheelchair as the disease progresses.

Surveillance: Yearly evaluation by a neurologist or physiatrist to prescribe walking aids.

Genetic counseling.

ARCA1 is inherited in an autosomal recessive manner. At conception, each sib of an affected individual has a 25% chance of being affected, a 50% chance of being an asymptomatic carrier, and a 25% chance of being unaffected and not a carrier. Carrier testing for at-risk family members and prenatal testing for pregnancies at increased risk are possible if the pathogenic variants in the family have been identified.


Clinical Diagnosis

The diagnosis of SYNE1-related autosomal recessive cerebellar ataxia (also known as autosomal recessive cerebellar ataxia type 1 or ARCA1) is established in individuals with the following:

  • Age of onset between late teens and early forties
  • Initial symptoms of cerebellar ataxia and/or dysarthria
  • "Pure" cerebellar ataxia phenotype with few associated features other than dysmetria, brisk lower-extremity tendon reflexes, and minor abnormalities in ocular saccades and smooth ocular pursuits


Nerve conduction studies. Always normal

Imaging. Always seen on MRI at the time of diagnosis: marked diffuse cerebellar atrophy (Figure 1) with no other abnormalities

Figure 1. . MRI of a 29-year-old female with ARCA1.

Figure 1.

MRI of a 29-year-old female with ARCA1. Sagittal T1 shows marked diffuse cerebellar atrophy with no atrophy of the cerebral cortex, midbrain, pons, or medulla.

Molecular Genetic Testing

Gene. SYNE1 is the only gene in which pathogenic variants are known to cause ARCA1.

Clinical testing

  • Sequence analysis. Detection of pathogenic variants is performed through sequence analysis of all exons and exon/intron junctions [Gros-Louis et al 2007]. The variant detection frequency approaches 100% in the regions of the gene that are sequenced.
  • Targeted analysis for pathogenic variants. Testing for a panel of pathogenic variants identified in affected individuals of French Canadian ancestry; see Table 1.
  • Scanning of select exons. The variant detection frequency is not known.
  • Deletion/duplication analysis. The usefulness of such testing has not been demonstrated, as no deletions or duplications of SYNE1 have been reported to result in ARCA1.

Table 1.

Summary of Molecular Genetic Testing Used in SYNE1-Related Autosomal Recessive Cerebellar Ataxia (ARCA1)

Gene 1Test MethodVariants Detected 2Variant Detection Frequency 3
SYNE1Sequence analysis 4 of coding region and exon/intron junctionsSequence variants including those in a targeted variant panel(s)~100% of variants in the regions sequenced
Targeted analysis for pathogenic variants 5Variants found in French Canadian population: p.Arg2906Ter, c.15705-12A>G, c.16177-2A>G, p.Asp5868AlafsTer13 6100% of targeted pathogenic variants
Scanning of select exonsExons 56, 71, 81, 84, 93, 118, 126 7Unknown
Deletion/duplication analysis 8(Multi)exon or whole-gene deletion/duplication 9Unknown; none reported to date

See Molecular Genetics for information on allelic variants.


The ability of the test method used to detect a pathogenic variant that is present in the indicated gene


Sequence analysis detects variants that are benign, likely benign, of uncertain significance, likely pathogenic, or pathogenic. Pathogenic variants may include small intragenic deletions/insertions and missense, nonsense, and splice site variants; typically, exon or whole-gene deletions/duplications are not detected. For issues to consider in interpretation of sequence analysis results, click here.


Targeted analysis refers to testing for specific pathogenic variant(s). The panel of pathogenic variants may vary among testing laboratories.


Some laboratories may offer testing for the pathogenic variants found in the French Canadian population: p.Gln7640X, p.Gln7386Ter, and c.281100-281101delTG.


Exons analyzed may vary by laboratory.


Testing that identifies exon or whole-gene deletions/duplications not readily detectable by sequence analysis of genomic DNA; a variety of methods including quantitative PCR, long-range PCR, multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA), or targeted chromosomal microarray analysis (gene/segment-specific) may be used. A full chromosomal microarray analysis that detects deletions/duplications across the genome may also include this gene/segment.


No deletions or duplications of SYNE1 have been reported to cause ARCA1. (Note: By definition, deletion/duplication analysis identifies rearrangements that are not identifiable by sequence analysis of genomic DNA.)

Testing Strategy

To confirm/establish the diagnosis in a proband. Probands should initially undergo the following:

Carrier testing for at-risk relatives requires prior identification of the pathogenic variants in the family.

Note: Carriers are heterozygotes for this autosomal recessive disorder and are not at risk of developing the disorder.

Predictive testing for at-risk asymptomatic adult family members requires prior identification of the pathogenic variants in the family.

Clinical Characteristics

Clinical Description

Overall, the SYNE1-related autosomal recessive cerebellar ataxia (ARCA1) phenotype consists of a middle-age onset disease (mean age: 31.60 years [SD 7.81]; range: 17-46 years) that presents with either cerebellar ataxia (62.5%) or dysarthria (12.5%) or both coincidentally (25%). Over time, all affected individuals develop significant dysarthria and ataxia, with other associated features such as dysmetria (90.6%), brisk lower-extremity tendon reflexes (32.8%), and minor abnormalities in ocular saccades (31.2%) and smooth pursuit (43.8%).

Individuals with ARCA1 showed significant deficits in attention (attention span, speed of information processing, sustained attention), verbal working memory, and visuospatial/visuoconstructional skills (3-D drawings, copy of a complex figure) [Laforce et al 2010].

No individuals with ARCA1 have shown extrapyramidal signs, retinopathy, cardiomyopathy, sensory abnormalities, or autonomic disturbances.

The disease progresses slowly, resulting in a moderate degree of disability.

Life expectancy is normal [Gros-Louis et al 2007].

Genotype-Phenotype Correlations

In the French-Canadian population, none of the pathogenic variants identified so far leads to a specific phenotype.


ARCA1 has also been referred to as recessive ataxia of the Beauce.


To date, more than 100 individuals with ARCA1 have been identified mainly in the Beauce and Bas St-Laurent regions of the Province of Quebec (Canada). The exact prevalence is unknown, but ARCA1 is the third most common hereditary ataxia in Quebec, after ARSACS and Friedreich ataxia.

ARCA1 has not been reported outside Quebec.

Differential Diagnosis

Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) is characterized by slowly progressive ataxia with mean age of onset between ten and 15 years and usually before age 25 years. FRDA is typically associated with depressed tendon reflexes, dysarthria, muscle weakness, spasticity in the lower limbs, optic nerve atrophy, scoliosis, bladder dysfunction, and loss of position and vibration senses. About two thirds of individuals with FRDA have cardiomyopathy, 30% have diabetes mellitus, and about 25% have an "atypical" presentation with later onset, retained tendon reflexes, or unusually slow progression of disease. Individuals with FRDA have identifiable pathogenic variants in FXN.

Ataxia with vitamin E deficiency (AVED). Most individuals with AVED present at puberty; common characteristics of the disease include progressive ataxia, clumsiness of the hands, loss of proprioception (especially of vibration and joint position sense), and areflexia. The principal criterion for diagnosis is a Friedreich ataxia-like neurologic phenotype associated with markedly reduced plasma vitamin E (α-tocopherol) concentration in the absence of known causes of malabsorption. In most cases, molecular analysis of TTPA, the gene encoding α-tocopherol transfer protein and the only gene in which mutation is known to cause AVED, allows confirmation of the diagnosis by demonstrating the presence of pathogenic variants.

Ataxia with oculomotor apraxia type 1 (AOA1) is characterized by childhood onset of slowly progressive cerebellar ataxia, followed by oculomotor apraxia and a severe axonal motor neuropathy. Oculomotor apraxia, usually noticed a few years after the onset of ataxia, progresses to external ophthalmoplegia. Chorea and upper-limb dystonia are common. Cerebellar atrophy is visible on MRI in all affected individuals. EMG reveals axonal neuropathy in 100% of individuals with AOA1. APTX is the only gene in which pathogenic variants are known to cause AOA1.

Ataxia with oculomotor apraxia type 2 (AOA2) is characterized by onset between ages ten and 22 years, cerebellar atrophy, axonal sensorimotor neuropathy, oculomotor apraxia, and elevated serum concentration of alpha-fetoprotein (AFP). AOA2 is caused by pathogenic variants in SETX.

16q-ADCA is characterized by onset after age 55 years and sensorineural hearing impairment [Ishikawa et al 2005]. It is a relatively pure cerebellar syndrome caused by pathogenic variants in PLEKHG4.

Spinocerebellar ataxia type 5 (SCA5) is characterized by a slowly progressive cerebellar syndrome beginning mostly in the third decade [Bürk et al 2004]. The most consistent clinical feature is downbeat nystagmus. Other common features include gait, stance, and limb ataxia; dysarthria; intention tremor and resting tremor; impaired smooth pursuit; and gaze-evoked nystagmus. Symptom progression is slow, and all affected individuals remain ambulatory despite disease duration of up to 30 years. MRI shows atrophy of the cerebellar vermis and hemispheres. SCA5 is caused by pathogenic variants in SPTBN2.

Spinocerebellar ataxia type 6 (SCA6) is characterized by adult-onset, slowly progressive cerebellar ataxia, dysarthria, and nystagmus. Age of onset is between 19 and 71 years. Initial symptoms are gait unsteadiness, stumbling, and imbalance in about 90% of individuals; the remainder present with dysarthria. Symptoms progress slowly, and eventually all persons have gait ataxia, upper-limb incoordination, intention tremor, and dysarthria. CACNA1A is the only gene in which pathogenic variants are known to cause SCA6.

Fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome (FXTAS) occurs in males who have an FMR1 premutation and is characterized by late-onset, progressive cerebellar ataxia and intention tremor (See FMR1-Related Disorders).

Other acquired causes of late-onset ataxia include [Fogel & Perlman 2006]: neurosyphilis, subacute combined degeneration, vitamin E deficiency, subcortical vascular disease, multiple sclerosis, normal-pressure hydrocephalus, copper myelopathy, gluten-sensitive enteropathy, paraneoplastic cerebellar ataxia, and brain tumors and metastases.


Evaluations Following Initial Diagnosis

To establish the extent of disease in an individual diagnosed with SYNE1-related autosomal recessive cerebellar ataxia (ARCA1):

  • Brain MRI to assess for cerebellar atrophy
  • Nerve conduction studies to rule out a peripheral neuropathy

Treatment of Manifestations

Individuals with ARCA1 should be followed by a neurologist and eventually a physiatrist as well.

As the disease progresses, individuals need walking aids such as a cane, a walker, and ultimately a wheelchair.


Yearly evaluation by a neurologist or physiatrist to prescribe walking aids is appropriate.

Agents/Circumstances to Avoid

People with ARCA1 should be advised to avoid employment that may put them at risk of falls or that may require a high degree of physical dexterity.

Evaluation of Relatives at Risk

See Genetic Counseling for issues related to testing of at-risk relatives for genetic counseling purposes.

Pregnancy Management

No pregnancy complications have been reported.

Therapies Under Investigation

Search for access to information on clinical studies for a wide range of diseases and conditions. Note: There may not be clinical trials for this disorder.

Genetic Counseling

Genetic counseling is the process of providing individuals and families with information on the nature, inheritance, and implications of genetic disorders to help them make informed medical and personal decisions. The following section deals with genetic risk assessment and the use of family history and genetic testing to clarify genetic status for family members. This section is not meant to address all personal, cultural, or ethical issues that individuals may face or to substitute for consultation with a genetics professional. —ED.

Mode of Inheritance

SYNE1-related autosomal recessive cerebellar ataxia (ARCA1) is inherited in an autosomal recessive manner.

Risk to Family Members

Parents of a proband

  • The parents of an affected individual are obligate heterozygotes and therefore carry one mutant allele.
  • Heterozygotes (carriers) are asymptomatic.

Sibs of a proband

  • At conception, each sib of an affected individual has a 25% chance of being affected, a 50% chance of being an asymptomatic carrier, and a 25% chance of being unaffected and not a carrier.
  • Once an at-risk sib is known to be unaffected, the risk of his/her being a carrier is 2/3.
  • Heterozygotes (carriers) are asymptomatic.

Offspring of a proband. The offspring of an individual with ARCA1 are obligate heterozygotes (carriers) for a pathogenic variant.

Other family members of a proband. Each sib of the proband's parents is at a 50% risk of being a carrier.

Carrier Detection

Carrier testing for at-risk family members is possible if the pathogenic variants have been identified in the family.

Related Genetic Counseling Issues

Family planning

  • The optimal time for determination of genetic risk, clarification of carrier status, and discussion of the availability of prenatal testing is before pregnancy.
  • It is appropriate to offer genetic counseling (including discussion of potential risks to offspring and reproductive options) to young adults who are affected, are carriers, or are at risk of being carriers.

DNA banking is the storage of DNA (typically extracted from white blood cells) for possible future use. Because it is likely that testing methodology and our understanding of genes, allelic variants, and diseases will improve in the future, consideration should be given to banking DNA of affected individuals.

Prenatal Testing and Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis

Once the SYNE1 pathogenic variants have been identified in an affected family member, prenatal diagnosis for a pregnancy at increased risk and preimplantation genetic diagnosis for ARCA1 are possible.


GeneReviews staff has selected the following disease-specific and/or umbrella support organizations and/or registries for the benefit of individuals with this disorder and their families. GeneReviews is not responsible for the information provided by other organizations. For information on selection criteria, click here.

  • AMCSI: Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita Suuport, Inc.
    P.O. Box 6291
    Spartanburg SC 29304
    Phone: 805-55-AMCSI (1-805-552-6274)
  • Ataxia UK
    Lincoln House
    1-3 Brixton Road
    London SW9 6DE
    United Kingdom
    Phone: 0845 644 0606 (helpline); 020 7582 1444 (office); +44 (0) 20 7582 1444 (from abroad)
  • euro-ATAXIA (European Federation of Hereditary Ataxias)
    Ataxia UK
    Lincoln House, Kennington Park, 1-3 Brixton Road
    London SW9 6DE
    United Kingdom
    Phone: +44 (0) 207 582 1444
  • National Ataxia Foundation
    2600 Fernbrook Lane
    Suite 119
    Minneapolis MN 55447
    Phone: 763-553-0020
  • NCBI Genes and Disease
  • Spinocerebellar Ataxia: Making an Informed Choice about Genetic Testing
    Booklet providing information about Spinocerebellar Ataxia
  • CoRDS Registry
    Sanford Research
    2301 East 60th Street North
    Sioux Falls SD 57104
    Phone: 605-312-6423

Molecular Genetics

Information in the Molecular Genetics and OMIM tables may differ from that elsewhere in the GeneReview: tables may contain more recent information. —ED.

Table A.

SYNE1-Related Autosomal Recessive Cerebellar Ataxia: Genes and Databases

GeneChromosome LocusProteinLocus-Specific DatabasesHGMDClinVar
SYNE16q25​.2Nesprin-1SYNE1 homepage - Leiden Muscular Dystrophy pagesSYNE1SYNE1

Data are compiled from the following standard references: gene from HGNC; chromosome locus from OMIM; protein from UniProt. For a description of databases (Locus Specific, HGMD, ClinVar) to which links are provided, click here.

Table B.

OMIM Entries for SYNE1-Related Autosomal Recessive Cerebellar Ataxia (View All in OMIM)


Molecular Genetic Pathogenesis

Although SYNE1 is expressed in multiple tissues, its greatest level in the central nervous system of mice is in the cell bodies of the Purkinje cells and in neurons of the olivary region of the brain stem, while in humans it is also expressed predominantly in the cerebellum; it is not expressed in glial cells [Gros-Louis et al 2007]. SYNE1 is part of the spectrin family of structural proteins that share a common function of linking the plasma membrane to the actin cytoskeleton, which is thought to have an important role in Purkinje cells. In the peripheral nervous system, SYNE1 is involved in anchoring specialized myonuclei underneath the neuromuscular junctions. Muscle biopsy of an individual with SYNE1-related autosomal recessive cerebellar ataxia (ARCA1) revealed that fewer myonuclei come to lie beneath the neuromuscular junction, although this finding has no clinical, electrophysiologic, or ultrastructural consequences.

Gene structure. SYNE1, one of the largest genes in the human genome (0.5 Mb of genomic DNA), comprises 147 exons. See Table A, Gene for a detailed summary of gene and protein information.

Pathogenic variants. Known ARCA1-causing pathogenic variants are listed in Table 1 and its footnotes.

Normal gene product. SYNE1 encodes a 27652-bp mRNA and an 8797-amino acid protein (>1,000 kd) [Gros-Louis et al 2007]. The protein contains two N-terminal actin-binding regions that comprise tandem paired calponin-homology domains, a transmembrane domain, multiple spectrin repeats, and a C-terminal KASH domain.

Abnormal gene product. All detected pathogenic variants lead to premature termination of the protein [Gros-Louis et al 2007]. A common feature of all detected pathogenic variants is the absence of the C-terminal KASH domain.


Literature Cited

  • Attali R, Warwar N, Israel A, Gurt I, McNally E, Puckelwartz M, Glick B, Nevo Y, Ben-Neriah Z, Melki J. Mutation of SYNE-1, encoding an essential component of the nuclear lamina, is responsible for autosomal recessive arthrogryposis. Hum Mol Genet. 2009;18:3462–9. [PubMed: 19542096]
  • Bürk K, Zühlke C, König IR, Ziegler A, Schwinger E, Globas C, Dichgans J, Hellenbroich Y. Spinocerebellar ataxia type 5: clinical and molecular genetic features of a German kindred. Neurology. 2004;62:327–9. [PubMed: 14745083]
  • Fogel BL, Perlman S. An approach to the patient with late-onset cerebellar ataxia. Nat Clin Pract Neurol. 2006;2:629–35. [PubMed: 17057750]
  • Gros-Louis F, Dupre N, Dion P, Fox MA, Laurent S, Verreault S, Sanes JR, Bouchard JP, Rouleau GA. Mutations in SYNE1 lead to a newly discovered form of autosomal recessive cerebellar ataxia. Nat Genet. 2007;39:80–5. [PubMed: 17159980]
  • Ishikawa K, Toru S, Tsunemi T, Li M, Kobayashi K, Yokota T, Amino T, Owada K, Fujigasaki H, Sakamoto M, Tomimitsu H, Takashima M, Kumagai J, Noguchi Y, Kawashima Y, Ohkoshi N, Ishida G, Gomyoda M, Yoshida M, Hashizume Y, Saito Y, Murayama S, Yamanouchi H, Mizutani T, Kondo I, Toda T, Mizusawa H. An autosomal dominant cerebellar ataxia linked to chromosome 16q22.1 is associated with a single-nucleotide substitution in the 5' untranslated region of the gene encoding a protein with spectrin repeat and Rho guanine-nucleotide exchange-factor domains. Am J Hum Genet. 2005;77:280–96. [PMC free article: PMC1224530] [PubMed: 16001362]
  • Laforce R Jr, Buteau JP, Bouchard JP, Rouleau GA, Bouchard RW, Dupré N. Cognitive impairment in ARCA-1, a newly discovered pure cerebellar ataxia syndrome. Cerebellum. 2010;9:443–53. [PubMed: 20559786]

Chapter Notes

Revision History

  • 13 October 2011 (cd) Revision: cognitive changes associated with this disorder as reported by Laforce et al [2010]
  • 18 August 2011 (cd) Revision: mutation scanning of select exons and prenatal testing clinically available
  • 14 July 2011 (me) Comprehensive update posted live
  • 15 September 2009 (cd) Revision: sequence analysis and targeted mutation analysis available clinically
  • 23 February 2007 (me) Review posted to live Web site
  • 6 February 2007 (nd) Original submission
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