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Am J Hum Genet. 1995 Sep;57(3):603-8.

Spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 and Machado-Joseph disease: incidence of CAG expansions among adult-onset ataxia patients from 311 families with dominant, recessive, or sporadic ataxia.

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Department of Neurology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA.


The ataxias are a complex group of diseases with both environmental and genetic causes. Among the autosomal dominant forms of ataxia the genes for two, spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA1) and Machado-Joseph disease (MJD), have been isolated. In both of these disorders the molecular basis of disease is the expansion of an unstable CAG trinucleotide repeat. To assess the frequency of the SCA1 and MJD trinucleotide repeat expansions among individuals diagnosed with ataxia we have collected DNA from individuals representing 311 families with adult-onset ataxia of unknown etiology and screened these samples for trinucleotide repeat expansions within the SCA1 and MJD genes. Within this group there are 149 families with dominantly inherited ataxia. Of these, 3% had SCA1 trinucleotide repeat expansions, whereas 21% were positive for the MJD trinucleotide expansion. Thus, together SCA1 and MJD represent 24% of the autosomal dominant ataxias in our group, and the frequency of MJD is substantially greater than that of SCA1. For the 57 patients with MJD trinucleotide repeat expansions, a strong inverse correlation between CAG repeat size and age at onset was observed (r = -.838). Among the MJD patients, the normal and affected ranges of CAG repeat size are 14-40 and 68-82 repeats, respectively. For SCA1 the normal and affected ranges are much closer, containing 19-38 and 40-81 CAG repeats, respectively.

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