Background: We intended to clarify the phenotypic and molecular diversities of spinocerebellar ataxia type 2 (SCA2) in Japan.
Methods: DNA was extracted from the peripheral blood of 436 patients, including 126 patients with chronic neuropathy, 108 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and 202 with cerebellar ataxia. We then PCR-amplified and sequenced the ATXN2 gene. The biopsied sural nerves of mutation-positive patients were subjected to light-microscopic and electron-microscopic analyses. Transfection analyses were performed using a Schwann cell line, IMS32.
Results: We found PCR-amplified products potentially corresponding to expanded CAG repeats in four patients. Two patients in the chronic neuropathy group had a full repeat expansion or an intermediate expansion (39 or 32 repeats), without limb ataxia. The sural nerve biopsy findings of the two patients included axonal neuropathy and mixed neuropathy (axonal changes with demyelination). Schwann cells harbored either cytoplasmic or nuclear inclusions on electron microscopic examination. Both patients recently exhibited pyramidal signs. In the third patient in the cerebellar ataxia group, we identified a novel 21-base duplication mutation near 22 CAG repeats (c.432_452dup). The transfection study revealed that the 21-base-duplication mutant Ataxin-2 proteins aggregated in IMS32 and rendered cells susceptible to oxidative stress, similar to a CAG-expanded mutant. The fourth patient, with 41 repeats, had ataxia and spasticity. The two patients with cerebellar ataxia also had peripheral neuropathy.
Conclusions: Patients with expanded CAG repeats can exhibit a neuropathy-dominant phenotype not described previously. The novel 21-base-duplication mutant seems to share the aggregation properties of polyglutamine-expanded mutants.
Keywords: Gene expression studies; Peripheral neuropathy; Spinocerebellar ataxia; Trinucleotide repeat diseases.
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