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Clin Neurosci. 1995;3(1):5-11.

Spinocerebellar ataxia type 1.

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Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA1) is an autosomal dominant progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by ataxia, dysarthria, ophthalmoparesis, and variable degrees of amyotrophy and neuropathy. Symptoms usually develop in the third or fourth decade but anticipation has been noted in juvenile onset cases. Neuropathologic findings include severe neuronal loss in the cerebellum and brainstem as well as degeneration of spinocerebellar tracts. The SCA1 gene which maps to the short arm of human chromosome 6 was identified using a positional cloning approach. The disease causing mutation is an expansion of a CAG trinucleotide repeat which lies within the coding region of a novel protein, ataxin-1, and encodes a polyglutamine tract. The number of CAG repeats varies from 6-39 repeats on normal alleles and 40-81 repeats on SCA1 alleles. The repeat has a perfect CAG configuration on expanded alleles whereas it is interrupted by 1-3 CAT units on normal alleles. Both wild type and expanded alleles are transcribed, ruling out impairment of transcriptional efficiency in SCA1. A pathogenetic model is proposed based on the findings in SCA1 and other neurodegenerative diseases caused by expansion of polyglutamine tracts. The expanded polyglutamine tract in ataxin-1 may lead to neurodegeneration through a gain of function mechanism involving aberrant interactions with other molecules in the involved neurons.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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