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Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2010 Mar 5;153B(2):524-31. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.b.31013.

Common origin of pure and interrupted repeat expansions in spinocerebellar ataxia type 2 (SCA2).

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  • 1UnIGENe, IBMC-Instituto de Biologia Molecular e Celular, Universidade do Porto, Porto, Portugal.


The spinocerebellar ataxia type 2 (SCA2) is an autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disease characterized by gait and limb ataxia. This disease is caused by the expansion of a (CAG)(n) located in the ATXN2, that encodes a polyglutamine tract of more than 34 repeats. Lately, alleles with 32-33 CAGs have been associated to late-onset disease cases. Repeat interruptions by CAA triplets are common in normal alleles, while expanded alleles usually contain a pure repeat tract. To investigate the mutational origin and the instability associated to the ATXN2 repeat, we performed an extensive haplotype study and sequencing of the CAG/CAA repeat, in a cohort of families of different geographic origins and phenotypes. Our results showed (1) CAA interruptions also in expanded ATXN2 alleles; (2) that pathological CAA interrupted alleles shared an ancestral haplotype with pure expanded alleles; and (3) higher genetic diversity in European SCA2 families, suggesting an older European ancestry of SCA2. In conclusion, we found instability towards expansion in interrupted ATXN2 alleles and a shared ancestral ATXN2 haplotype for pure and interrupted expanded alleles; this finding has strong implications in mutation diagnosis and counseling. Our results indicate that interrupted alleles, below the pathological threshold, may be a reservoir of mutable alleles, prone to expansion in subsequent generations, leading to full disease mutation.

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