Correlation of clinical and molecular features in spinal bulbar muscular atrophy

Neurology. 2014 Jun 10;82(23):2077-84. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000000507. Epub 2014 May 9.


Objectives: To characterize the clinical and genetic features of spinal bulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA), a rare neurodegenerative disorder caused by the expansion of a CAG repeat in the first exon of the androgen receptor gene, in the United Kingdom.

Methods: We created a national register for SBMA in the United Kingdom and recruited 61 patients between 2005 and 2013. In our cross-sectional study, we assessed, by direct questioning, impairment of activities of daily living (ADL) milestones, functional rating, and subjective disease impact, and performed correlations with both CAG repeat size and degree of somatic mosaicism. Ten patients were deceased, 46 patients participated in the study, and 5 declined.

Results: Subjects had an average age at onset of 43.4 years, and weakness onset most frequently occurred in the lower limbs (87%). Impaired mobility was the most frequently reported problem by patients, followed by bulbar dysfunction. Age distribution of the impairment of ADL milestones showed remarkable overlap with a Japanese study. We have identified a significant correlation between the number of CAG repeats and both age at onset and ADL milestones. Somatic mosaicism also showed a correlation with CAG expansion size and age at onset.

Conclusions: Clinical features in SBMA show a substantial overlap when comparing populations with different genetic backgrounds. This finding has major implications, because multicenter trials will be necessary to obtain sufficient power in future clinical trials. Clinical-genetic correlations are strong in SBMA and should inform any clinical research strategy in this condition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mosaicism*
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / genetics*
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal / physiopathology
  • Receptors, Androgen / genetics*
  • Registries*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Trinucleotide Repeats / genetics
  • United Kingdom
  • Young Adult


  • Receptors, Androgen