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Men with FMR1 premutation alleles of less than 71 CGG repeats have low risk of being affected with fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome (FXTAS)


Fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome (FXTAS) is a late-onset condition characterised by cerebellar ataxia and intention tremor, usually found in individuals with FMR1 premutation alleles (PM—CGG expansion of 55–199 repeats). Population studies estimate that between 1 in 250 and 1 in 1600 men have a PM, with up to 45% of these men suggested to develop FXTAS by age 80. We used a Bayesian approach to compare the probability of finding a specific PM genotype in an ataxia population to a population control group and found an estimated penetrance of <1% (0.031%; CI 0.007% to 0.141%) for men with ≤70 CGGs. These findings suggest that men with a PM of ≤70 CGGs, who comprise the vast majority of those with a PM, have a much lower risk of being affected with FXTAS than previously suggested. This is an issue of growing importance for accurate genetic counselling, as those with a PM of ≤70 CGGs are increasingly detected through community carrier screening or neurodevelopmental assessment programmes.

  • DNA repeat expansion
  • human genetics
  • neurodegenerative diseases
  • genetic counseling

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