Comprehensive genotyping of the C9orf72 hexanucleotide repeat region in 2095 ALS samples from the NINDS collection using a two-mode, long-read PCR assay

Amyotroph Lateral Scler Frontotemporal Degener. 2019 Feb;20(1-2):107-114. doi: 10.1080/21678421.2018.1522353. Epub 2018 Nov 15.


Objective: Expansion of the G4C2 repeat tract in the C9orf72 gene is linked to frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Here, we provide comprehensive genotyping of the C9orf72 repeat region for the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) ALS collection (n = 2095), using a novel bimodal PCR assay capable of amplifying nearly 100% GC-rich sequences.

Methods: A single-tube 3-primer PCR assay mode, resolved using capillary electrophoresis, was used for sizing up to 145 repeats with single-repeat accuracy, for detecting expansions irrespective of their overall size, and for flagging confounding 3' sequence variations (SVs). A modified two-primer PCR mode, resolved via agarose gel electrophoresis, provided further size information for hyper-expanded samples (>145 repeats) up to ∼5.8 kb amplicons (∼950 G4C2 repeats).

Results: Within the evaluated cohort, 177 (8.4%) samples were expanded, with 175 (99%) samples being hyper-expanded. 3'-SVs were identified in 64 (3.1%) samples, and were most common in expanded alleles. Genotypes of all 606 (29%) homozygous samples were confirmed using an orthogonal PCR assay.

Conclusion: This study and PCR method may improve and standardize molecular characterization of the C9orf72 locus, and have the potential to inform phenotype-genotype correlations and therapeutic development in ALS/FTD.

Keywords: C9orf72; GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; frontotemporal dementia; microsatellite; repeat-primed PCR.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / genetics*
  • C9orf72 Protein / genetics*
  • DNA Repeat Expansion / genetics*
  • Genotyping Techniques / methods*
  • Humans
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*


  • C9orf72 Protein
  • C9orf72 protein, human