Spinocerebellar [corrected] Ataxia Type 6: Molecular Mechanisms and Calcium Channel Genetics

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2018:1049:147-173. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-71779-1_7.


Spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA) type 6 is an autosomal dominant disease affecting cerebellar degeneration. Clinically, it is characterized by pure cerebellar dysfunction, slowly progressive unsteadiness of gait and stance, slurred speech, and abnormal eye movements with late onset. Pathological findings of SCA6 include a diffuse loss of Purkinje cells, predominantly in the cerebellar vermis. Genetically, SCA6 is caused by expansion of a trinucleotide CAG repeat in the last exon of longest isoform CACNA1A gene on chromosome 19p13.1-p13.2. Normal alleles have 4-18 repeats, while alleles causing disease contain 19-33 repeats. Due to presence of a novel internal ribosomal entry site (IRES) with the mRNA, CACNA1A encodes two structurally unrelated proteins with distinct functions within an overlapping open reading frame (ORF) of the same mRNA: (1) α1A subunit of P/Q-type voltage gated calcium channel; (2) α1ACT, a newly recognized transcription factor, with polyglutamine repeat at C-terminal end. Understanding the function of α1ACT in physiological and pathological conditions may elucidate the pathogenesis of SCA6. More importantly, the IRES, as the translational control element of α1ACT, provides a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of SCA6.

Keywords: IRES; Polyglutamine; Purkinje cells; SCA6; α1ACT.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium Channels* / biosynthesis
  • Calcium Channels* / genetics
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 19* / genetics
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 19* / metabolism
  • Exons*
  • Humans
  • Internal Ribosome Entry Sites / genetics
  • Purkinje Cells* / metabolism
  • Purkinje Cells* / pathology
  • Spinocerebellar Ataxias* / genetics
  • Spinocerebellar Ataxias* / metabolism
  • Spinocerebellar Ataxias* / pathology
  • Trinucleotide Repeat Expansion*


  • CACNA1A protein, human
  • Calcium Channels
  • Internal Ribosome Entry Sites