Phenotypic manifestations associated with CAG-repeat expansion in the androgen receptor gene in male patients and heterozygous females: a clinical and molecular study of 30 families

Neuromuscul Disord. 2000 Aug;10(6):391-7. doi: 10.1016/s0960-8966(99)00132-7.


Spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy (Kennedy disease) is an adult form of X-linked motor neuron disease caused by the expansion of a polymorphic CAG-repeat sequence in the first exon of the androgen receptor gene. We studied clinical and molecular features of 36 patients and 19 heterozygous females. Phenotypic manifestations and disease severity broadly varied among our spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy patients. The size of CAG expansion significantly influences the age of disease onset, but neither clinical features nor disease severity. The majority of carrier women presented signs of chronic denervation at neurophysiological examination and, in three cases, low-amplitude sensory action potentials were recorded. Notably, a few women developed mild signs of bulbar motor neuron impairment later in life. The identification of a large number of patients by the use of the molecular test further supports the hypothesis that Kennedy disease had been previously underdiagnosed, probably because of the great variability of clinical presentation. Although an early diagnosis may not be crucial for treatment, given the lack of effective therapy, the molecular testing can be of great relevance for disease prognosis and genetic counseling.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Alleles
  • Creatine Kinase / blood
  • Fasciculation
  • Female
  • Genetic Carrier Screening
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / blood
  • Gonadotropins, Pituitary / blood
  • Gynecomastia
  • Heterozygote*
  • Humans
  • Hypesthesia
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / blood
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / epidemiology
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / genetics*
  • Penetrance
  • Phenotype
  • Receptors, Androgen / genetics*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Trinucleotide Repeat Expansion / genetics*


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Gonadotropins, Pituitary
  • Receptors, Androgen
  • Creatine Kinase