Spinocerebellar ataxia 7 (SCA7) is the eighth neurodegenerative disorder caused by a translated CAG repeat expansion. Normal SCA7 alleles carry from four to 35 CAG repeats, whereas pathological alleles carry from 37 to approximately 200. Intermediate alleles (IAs), with 28-35 repeats in the SCA7 gene are exceedingly rare in the general population and are not associated with the SCA7 phenotype, although they have been found among relatives of four SCA7 families. In two of these families, IAs bearing 35 and 28 CAG repeats gave rise, during paternal transmission, to SCA7 expansions of 57 and 47 repeats, respectively, that were confirmed by haplotype reconstructions in one case and by inference in the other. Furthermore, the four haplotypes segregating with IAs were identical to the expanded alleles in each kindred, but differed among the families, indicating multiple origins of the SCA7 mutation in these families with different geographical origins. Our results provide the first evidence of de novo SCA7 expansions from IAs that are not associated with the phenotype but can expand to the pathological range during some paternal transmissions. IAs that segregate in unaffected branches of the pedigrees might, therefore, constitute a reservoir for future de novo mutations that occur in a recurrent but random manner. This would explain the persistence of the disease in spite of the great anticipation (approximately 20 years/generation) characteristic of SCA7. So far, de novo expansions among the disorders caused by polyglutamine repeats have only been demonstrated in Huntington's disease.