Large normal ('intermediate') alleles may produce de novo expansions in Huntington disease; nevertheless, there is very little evidence about their population prevalence and impact in daily practice, and there are conflicting reports about the extent of their instability. We estimated the frequency of large normal alleles (27-35 CAGs) and of reduced penetrance alleles (36-39 CAGs), as well as the frequency of genotypes carrying them, in (i) a diagnostic laboratory, (ii) a genetic counselling clinic and (iii) the general population. Large normal alleles were present in 6% of a large control sample, 7% of consultands who took pre-symptomatic testing and 7% of samples in the laboratory. Reduced penetrance alleles were found in 1 of 1772 control chromosomes (0.1% of individuals), 5% of 146 pre-symptomatic testees and over 2% of 1214 diagnostic samples (350 families). All 16 alleles sized 27-32 CAGs seemed to be transmitted stably; alleles ≥ 36 repeats were unstable in five families. Seven small full penetrance alleles contracted into the reduced penetrance range, but none into the large normal range. Evidence showed that large normal alleles are relatively frequent and that those with reduced penetrance are not a rare event, either at the laboratory or the clinic. This reinforces the need to understand the genomic context of repeat instability in each family and population.
© 2010 John Wiley & Sons A/S.