Trinucleotide repeat expansion has been found in 64 subjects from 19 families: 57 patients with SCA1 and 7 subjects predicted, by haplotype analysis, to carry the mutation. Comparison with a large set of normal chromosomes shows two distinct distributions, with a much wider variation among expanded chromosomes. The sex of transmitting parent plays a major role in the size distribution of expanded alleles, those with > 54 repeats being transmitted by affected fathers exclusively. Our data suggest that alleles with > 54 repeats have a reduced chance of survival; these appear to be replaced in each generation by further expansion of alleles in the low- to medium-expanded repeat range, preferentially in male transmissions. Detailed clinical follow-up of a subset of our patients demonstrates significant relationships between increasing repeat number on expanded chromosomes and earlier age at onset, faster progression of the disease, and earlier age at death.