Machado Joseph disease (MJD) is an autosomal dominantly inherited neuro-degenerative disorder primarily affecting the motor system. It can be divided into three phenotypes based on the variable combination of a range of clinical symptoms including pyramidal and extra-pyramidal features, cerebellar deficits, and distal muscle atrophy. MJD is thought to be caused by mutation of a single gene which has recently been mapped, using genetic linkage analysis, to a 29 cM region on chromosome 14q24.3-q32 in five Japanese families. A second disorder, spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 (SCA3), which has clinical symptoms similar to MJD, has also been linked to the same region of chromosome 14q in two French families. In order to narrow down the region of chromosome 14 which contains the MJD locus and to determine if this region overlaps with the predisposing locus for SCA3, we have performed genetic linkage analysis in seven MJD families, six of Portuguese/Azorean origin and one of Brazilian origin, using nine microsatellite markers mapped to 14q24.3-q32. Our results localise the MJD locus in these families to an 11 cM interval flanked by the markers D14S68 and AFM343vf1. In addition we show that this 11 cM interval maps within the 15 cM interval containing the SCA3 locus, suggesting that these diseases are allelic.
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