Simple nonisotopic assays for detection of (CAG)n repeats expansions associated with seven neurodegenerative disorders

Diagn Mol Pathol. 1998 Jun;7(3):174-9. doi: 10.1097/00019606-199806000-00009.


To date, eight neurodegenerative diseases, including Huntington's disease, dentatorubral-pallidoluysian atrophy, spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy, and spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA) types 1, 2, 3, 6, and 7, have been proven to be caused by an expanded trinucleotide repeat (CAG)n located within a specific gene for each of these diseases. Except in SCA 6, the CAG repeat is present in approximately 7 to 35 copies in the normal population, whereas patients have CAG expansions of 40 to approximately 75 repeats. Sizing of the repeat length enables molecular diagnosis in affected patients and presymptomatic persons carrying a mutated allele. A molecular protocol for the diagnosis of these diseases was developed based on polymerase chain reaction, denaturing polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and staining with silver nitrate, and adapted to each disease. This simple and rapid method gives a sensitivity of detection equal to current procedures but avoids isotopic manipulations. Therefore, shorter turnaround time, decreased cost per sample, and simplified screening of these neurodegenerative diseases by PCR-based assays may be attainable using this protocol.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA / analysis*
  • DNA Primers / chemistry
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / chemistry
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / blood
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / diagnosis
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / genetics*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Trinucleotide Repeat Expansion / genetics*


  • DNA Primers
  • DNA