Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is characterised by degeneration of anterior horn cells of the spinal cord and represents the second most common, lethal, autosomal recessive disorder after cystic fibrosis. Based on the criteria of the Internatinal SMA Consortium, childhood SMAs are classified into type I (Werdnig-Hoffmann disease), type II (intermediate form), and type III (Kugelberg-Welander disease). Recently, two genes have been found to be associated with SMA. The survival motor neurone gene (SMN) is an SMA determining gene as it is absent in 98.6% of patients. A second gene, XS2G3, or the highly homologous neuronal apoptosis inhibitory protein gene (NAIP) have been found to be more frequently deleted in type I than in the milder forms (types II and III). We investigated the correlation between the clinical phenotype and the genotype at this loci. A total of 106 patients were classified into type I (44), type II (31), and type III (31) and analysed using SMN, markers C212 and C272, and NAIP mapping upstream and downstream from SMN respectively. The combined analysis of all markers showed a large proportion of type I patients (43%) carried deletions of both SMN and its flanking markers (C212/272) and NAIP exon 5), as compared with none of the patients with type II or III SMA. The presence of large scale deletions involving these loci is specific to Werdnig-Hoffman disease (type I) and allows one to predict the severity of the disease in our series.
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