Key words Friedreich’s ataxia
Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract Friedreich’s ataxia (FA) is most frequently caused by intronic trinucleotide repeat expansions in the frataxin gene on chromosome 9. The broad clinical spectrum includes late-onset FA (LOFA) and FA with retained reflexes (FARR). The size of the GAA expansions accounts for most, but not all, of the clinical variability. We report the unusual occurrence of LOFA and FARR in two siblings of patients with classical early-onset FA in two families. In spite of the markedly different course of the disease, the respective siblings harboured GAA repeat expansions of similar size in leucocytes. Since haplotype-related variability is not likely among siblings, we suppose that this intrafamilial phenotype variability is due to somatic mosaicism, with the more severely affected siblings harbouring the larger expansions in spinal cord and other affected tissues. In view of these results, genetic counseling and predictions on the course of FA are particularly difficult, even if an expansion mutation is found.
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