Monozygotic twins discordant for Huntington disease after 7 years

Arch Neurol. 2005 Jun;62(6):995-7. doi: 10.1001/archneur.62.6.995.


Background: Huntington disease (HD) has only rarely been identified in identical twins. All described twins have had disease onset within 1 year of each other, suggesting that disease onset is determined solely by genetic influences.

Objective: To describe a unique set of monozygotic twins in whom clinical HD onset is at least 7 years apart.

Design: A 71-year-old woman was diagnosed as having HD based on medical history, physical examination results consistent with HD, and a CAG trinucleotide repeat number of 39 in the HD gene on chromosome 4. Her onset was 6 years earlier. Her genetically confirmed identical twin, carrying the same number of CAG repeats, was neurologically healthy when examined the next year. Only the HD-manifest twin had chronic bronchitis, rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and chronic anemia. Both had hypertension.

Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the first report of monozygotic twins discordant for HD by more than 2 years. The onset of HD symptoms in a patient with 39 triplet repeats at least 7 years earlier than her identical twin suggests the possibility that the disease may be initiated (or delayed) by environmental factors. We have identified increased cigarette use and longer exposure to various industrial toxins as potential explanations for the earlier onset in one twin.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Diseases in Twins / diagnosis
  • Diseases in Twins / genetics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease / diagnosis
  • Huntington Disease / genetics*
  • Time Factors
  • Twins, Monozygotic / genetics*