Brain regional differences in the expansion of a CAG repeat in the spinocerebellar ataxias: dentatorubral-pallidoluysian atrophy, Machado-Joseph disease, and spinocerebellar ataxia type 1

Ann Neurol. 1997 Apr;41(4):505-11. doi: 10.1002/ana.410410414.


Three autosomal dominant spinocerebellar ataxias, dentatorubral-pallidoluysian atrophy (DRPLA), Machado-Joseph disease (MJD), and spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA1), are associated with the expansion of a CAG repeat in the respective genes. To investigate the association between CAG repeat expansion and neuropathological findings, we analyzed several brain regions from 9 cases of DRPLA, 3 cases of MJD, and 1 case of SCA1. We found that the expanded alleles were smaller in the cerebellar cortex than in other brain regions, such as the frontal cortex, in these three diseases. The discrepancy in the expanded CAG repeat length between cerebellar cortex and other tissues was most prominent in DRPLA, and especially in cases of adult-onset DRPLA. A significant correlation was found between the age at onset of DRPLA and the size of the CAG repeat expansion. Cerebella of DRPLA patients were microscopically dissected into three layers, the molecular and granular layers and the white matter, which were analyzed separately. The lower level of CAG repeat expansion in DRPLA cerebella was representative of CAG repeat expansion in the granule cells. The microdissected samples of the granular layer of the hippocampal formation, which is densely packed with neuronal cells, revealed that the degree of CAG repeat expansion in this layer was similar to that in the cerebellum. These observations suggest that granule cells in the cerebellum and hippocampus have low levels of CAG repeat expansion, and that other types of cells exhibit a higher level of CAG repeat expansion, in spinocerebellar ataxias.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Cerebellum / pathology
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • DNA / analysis*
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mosaicism
  • Nerve Degeneration
  • Spinocerebellar Degenerations / genetics*
  • Spinocerebellar Degenerations / pathology
  • Trinucleotide Repeats*


  • DNA