Spinocerebellar Ataxia Tethering PCR: A Rapid Genetic Test for the Diagnosis of Spinocerebellar Ataxia Types 1, 2, 3, 6, and 7 by PCR and Capillary Electrophoresis

J Mol Diagn. 2018 May;20(3):289-297. doi: 10.1016/j.jmoldx.2017.12.006. Epub 2018 Feb 17.


Spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA) types 1, 2, 3, 6, and 7, associated with a (CAG)n repeat expansion in coding sequences, are the most prevalent autosomal dominant ataxias worldwide (approximately 60% of the cases). In addition, the phenotype of SCA2 expansions has been now extended to Parkinson disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Their diagnosis is currently based on a PCR to identify small expanded alleles, followed by a second-level test whenever a false normal homozygous or a CAT interruption in SCA1 needs to be verified. Next-generation sequencing still does not allow efficient detection of these repeats. Here, we show the efficacy of a novel, rapid, and cost-effective method to identify and size pathogenic expansions in SCA1, 2, 3, 6, and 7 and recognize large alleles or interruptions without a second-level test. Twenty-five healthy controls and 33 expansion carriers were analyzed: alleles migrated consistently in different PCRs and capillary runs, and homozygous individuals were always distinguishable from heterozygous carriers of both common and large (>100 repeats) pathogenic CAG expansions. Repeat number could be calculated counting the number of peaks, except for the largest SCA2 and SCA7 alleles. Interruptions in SCA1 were always visible. Overall, our method allows a simpler, cost-effective, and sensibly faster SCA diagnostic protocol compared with the standard technique and to the still unadapted next-generation sequencing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Electrophoresis, Capillary / methods*
  • Genetic Testing / methods*
  • Heterozygote
  • Homozygote
  • Humans
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Spinocerebellar Ataxias / diagnosis*
  • Spinocerebellar Ataxias / genetics*