Clinical and genetic characteristics of late-onset Huntington's disease in a large European cohort

Eur J Neurol. 2022 Jul;29(7):1940-1951. doi: 10.1111/ene.15340. Epub 2022 Apr 17.


Background and purpose: Huntington's disease (HD) is an autosomal dominant condition caused by CAG-triplet repeat expansions. CAG-triplet repeat expansion is inversely correlated with age of onset in HD and largely determines the clinical features. The aim of this study was to examine the phenotypic and genotypic correlates of late-onset HD (LoHD) and to determine whether LoHD is a more benign expression of HD.

Methods: This was a retrospective observational study of 5053 White European HD patients from the ENROLL-HD database. Sociodemographic, genetic and phenotypic variables at baseline evaluation of subjects with LoHD, common-onset HD (CoHD) and young-onset HD (YoHD) were compared. LoHD subjects were compared with healthy subjects (HS) aged ≥60 years. Differences between the CoHD and LoHD groups were also explored in subjects with 41 CAG triplets, a repeat number in the lower pathological expansion range associated with wide variability in age at onset.

Results: Late-onset HD presented predominantly as motor-onset disease, with a lower prevalence of both psychiatric history and current symptomatology. Absent/unknown HD family history was significantly more common in the LoHD group (31.2%) than in the other groups. The LoHD group had more severe motor and cognitive deficits than the HS group. Subjects with LoHD and CoHD with 41 triplets in the larger allele were comparable with regard to cognitive impairment, but those with LoHD had more severe motor disorders, less problematic behaviors and more often an unknown HD family history.

Conclusions: It is likely that cognitive disorders and motor symptoms of LoHD are at least partly age-related and not a direct expression of the disease. In addition to CAG-triplet repeat expansion, future studies should investigate the role of other genetic and environmental factors in determining age of onset.

Keywords: 41 CAG triplets; Enroll-HD; age of onset; allele expansion; late-onset Huntington's disease.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Age of Onset
  • Cognition Disorders* / complications
  • Cohort Studies
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease* / diagnosis
  • Huntington Disease* / epidemiology
  • Huntington Disease* / genetics
  • Trinucleotide Repeat Expansion / genetics