BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Hereditary ataxias are heterogeneous groups of neurodegenerative disorders, characterized by cerebellar syndromes associated with dysarthria, oculomotor and corticospinal signs, neuropathy and cognitive impairment. Recent reports have suggested mutations in the SPG7 gene, causing the most common form of autosomal recessive spastic paraplegia (MIM#607259), as a main cause of ataxias. The majority of described patients were homozygotes or compound heterozygotes for the c.1529C>T (p.Ala510Val) change. We screened a cohort of 895 Italian patients with ataxia for p.Ala510Val in order to define the prevalence and genotype-phenotype correlation of this variant.
METHODS: We set up a rapid assay for c.1529C>T using restriction enzyme analysis after polymerase chain reaction amplification. We confirmed the diagnosis with Sanger sequencing.
RESULTS: We identified eight homozygotes and 13 compound heterozygotes, including two novel variants affecting splicing. Mutated patients showed a pure cerebellar ataxia at onset, evolving in mild spastic ataxia (alternatively) associated with dysarthria (~80% of patients), urinary urgency (~30%) and pyramidal signs (~70%). Comparing homozygotes and compound heterozygotes, we noted a difference in age at onset and Scale for the Assessment and Rating of Ataxia score between the two groups, supporting an earlier and more severe phenotype in compound heterozygotes versus homozygotes.
CONCLUSIONS: The SPG7 c.1529C>T (p.Ala510Val) mutants accounted for 2.3% of cerebellar ataxia cases in Italy, suggesting that this variant should be considered as a priority test in the presence of late-onset pure ataxia. Moreover, the heterozygous/homozygous genotype appeared to predict the onset of clinical manifestation and disease progression.