Spinocerebellar ataxia type 6 (SCA6) is an autosomal dominant spinocerebellar degeneration caused by CAG repeat expansions in the human α1A voltage-dependent calcium channel subunit gene. We analyzed 16 SCA6 patients in 14 unrelated Japanese families, and documented the clinical and molecular properties correlating with the CAG repeat expansion. Three of them were sporadic. The CAG repeat number of the expanded and normal alleles was 22.7 ± 2.0 (mean ± SD, n = 15) and 13.8 ± 2.0 (n = 15), respectively, and the repeat size of the expanded alleles correlated inversely with age at onset. The patients presented here were clinically characterized by a slowly progressive cerebellar ataxia and nystagmus. In leukocytes, the strict pattern of the peak in the expanded allele on polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis did not show the presence of cell mosaicism in SCAB, in contrast to other trinucleotide disorders. Moreover, in each patient, the number of CAG repeats in sperm was the same as in leukocytes, and the expanded alleles in sperm indicated uniform peaks as well. In our geographic area, the frequency of SCA6 was as high as MJD, in contrast to the low frequency of other autosomal dominant cerebellar ataxias. Thus, a geographic difference in the frequency of autosomal dominant spinocerebellar ataxias may be present in Japan.
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