Molecular features of the CAG repeats of spinocerebellar ataxia 6 (SCA6).
Spinocerebellar ataxia 6 (SCA6) is an autosomal dominant spinocerebellar degeneration caused by the expansion of the polymorphic CAG repeat in the human alpha1A voltage-dependent calcium channel subunit gene (CACNL1A4 gene). We have analyzed 60 SCA6 individuals from 39 independent SCA6 Japanese families and found that the CAG repeat length is inversely correlated with the age of onset (n = 58, r = -0.51, P < 0.0001). SCA6 chromosomes contained 21-30 repeat units, whereas normal chromosomes displayed 6-17 repeats. There was no overlap between the normal and affected CAG repeat number. The anticipation of the disease was observed clinically in all eight parent-child pairs that we examined; the mean age of onset was significantly lower (P = 0.0042) in children than in parents. However, a parent-child analysis showed the increase in the expansion of CAG repeats only in one pair and no diminution in any affected cases. This result suggests that factors other than CAG repeats may produce the clinical anticipation. A homozygotic case could not demonstrate an unequivocal gene dosage effect on the age of onset.