Autosomal dominant cerebellar ataxia: Frequency analysis and clinical characterization of 45 families from Portugal

J. Vale, P. Bugalho, I. Silveira, J. Sequeiros, J. Guimarães, P. Coutinho

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Background and purpose: The relative frequency of the different autosomal dominant cerebellar ataxia (ADCA) varies widely amongst different geographic locations. Here we describe a series of 45 ADCA families from Portugal. Methods: Patients with progressive cerebellar dysfunction of autosomal dominant transmission underwent a clinical examination protocol and genetic testing for spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA)1 to Machado-Joseph disease (MJD)/SCA3, SCA6, SCA7, SCA10, SCA12, SCA17 and dentatorubral-pallidoluysian atrophy (DRPLA). We registered the clinical characteristics and frequency of each type of ataxia. Results: MJD/SCA3 was the most frequent ADCA (26 families, 57.8% of all families), followed by DRPLA (5 families, 11.2%), SCA7 (2 families, 4.4%), SCA2 and SCA1 (1 family each, 2.2% each); 10 families (22.2%) had no molecular diagnosis. SCA1 and SCA7 patients had African ancestry. DRPLA patients had Portuguese ancestry and were characterized by prominent anticipation and a variable combination of epilepsy, extra-pyramidal symptoms and dementia. Ophtalmoparesis, slow saccades and retinopathy were most distinctive of SCA3, SCA2 and SCA7 cases, respectively. Conclusions: MJD/SCA3 was the most common ADCA in this group of families. The high frequency of DRPLA and presence of SCA1 and SCA7 cases was unexpected. The presence of these rarer ADCA types probably reflects migration phenomena, posing a challenge for differential diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-128
Number of pages5
JournalEuropean Journal of Neurology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010


  • Dentatorubral-pallidoluysian atrophy
  • Machado-Joseph disease
  • Spinocerebellar ataxia


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