Quantitative analysis of survival motor neuron copies: identification of subtle SMN1 mutations in patients with spinal muscular atrophy, genotype-phenotype correlation, and implications for genetic counseling

Am J Hum Genet. 1999 May;64(5):1340-56. doi: 10.1086/302369.


Problems with diagnosis and genetic counseling occur for patients with autosomal recessive proximal spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) who do not show the most common mutation: homozygous absence of at least exon 7 of the telomeric survival motor neuron gene (SMN1). Here we present molecular genetic data for 42 independent nondeleted SMA patients. A nonradioactive quantitative PCR test showed one SMN1 copy in 19 patients (45%). By sequencing cloned reverse-transcription (RT) PCR products or genomic fragments of SMN1, we identified nine different mutations in 18 of the 19 patients, six described for the first time: three missense mutations (Y272C, T274I, S262I), three frameshift mutations in exons 2a, 2b, and 4 (124insT, 241-242ins4, 591delA), one nonsense mutation in exon 1 (Q15X), one Alu-mediated deletion from intron 4 to intron 6, and one donor splice site mutation in intron 7 (c.922+6T-->G). The most frequent mutation, Y272C, was found in 6 (33%) of 18 patients. Each intragenic mutation found in at least two patients occurred on the same haplotype background, indicating founder mutations. Genotype-phenotype correlation allowed inference of the effect of each mutation on the function of the SMN1 protein and the role of the SMN2 copy number in modulating the SMA phenotype. In 14 of 23 SMA patients with two SMN1 copies, at least one intact SMN1 copy was sequenced, which excludes a 5q-SMA and suggests the existence of further gene(s) responsible for approximately 4%-5% of phenotypes indistinguishable from SMA. We determined the validity of the test, and we discuss its practical implications and limitations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Female
  • Gene Dosage
  • Genetic Carrier Screening
  • Genetic Counseling
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / genetics*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics*
  • Phenotype
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • SMN Complex Proteins
  • Survival of Motor Neuron 1 Protein
  • Survival of Motor Neuron 2 Protein


  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • SMN Complex Proteins
  • SMN1 protein, human
  • SMN2 protein, human
  • Survival of Motor Neuron 1 Protein
  • Survival of Motor Neuron 2 Protein

Associated data

  • GENBANK/U80017