Background: Multiple system atrophy (MSA) has been considered a sporadic disease, without patterns of inheritance.
Objective: To describe the clinical features of 4 multiplex families with MSA, including clinical genetic aspects.
Design: Clinical and genetic study.
Setting: Four departments of neurology in Japan. Patients Eight patients in 4 families with parkinsonism, cerebellar ataxia, and autonomic failure with age at onset ranging from 58 to 72 years. Two siblings in each family were affected with these conditions.
Main outcome measures: Clinical evaluation was performed according to criteria by Gilman et al. Trinucleotide repeat expansion in the responsible genes for the spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA) series and for dentatorubral-pallidoluysian atrophy (DRPLA) was evaluated by polymerase chain reaction. Direct sequence analysis of coding regions in the alpha-synuclein gene was performed.
Results: Consanguineous marriage was observed in 1 of 4 families. Among 8 patients, 1 had definite MSA, 5 had probable MSA, and 2 had possible MSA. The most frequent phenotype was MSA with predominant parkinsonism, observed in 5 patients. Six patients showed pontine atrophy with cross sign or slitlike signal change at the posterolateral putaminal margin or both on brain magnetic resonance imaging. Possibilities of hereditary ataxias, including SCA1 (ataxin 1, ATXN1), SCA2 (ATXN2), Machado-Joseph disease/SCA3 (ATXN1), SCA6 (ATXN1), SCA7 (ATXN7), SCA12 (protein phosphatase 2, regulatory subunit B, beta isoform; PP2R2B), SCA17 (TATA box binding protein, TBP) and DRPLA (atrophin 1; ATN1), were excluded, and no mutations in the alpha-synuclein gene were found.
Conclusions: Findings in these multiplex families suggest the presence of familial MSA with autosomal recessive inheritance and a genetic predisposition to MSA. Molecular genetic approaches focusing on familial MSA are expected to provide clues to the pathogenesis of MSA.