DNA tests in normal subjects and patients with ataxia and Parkinson's disease (PD) were carried out to assess the frequency of spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA) and to document the distribution of SCA mutations underlying ethnic Chinese in Taiwan. MJD/SCA3 (46%) was the most common autosomal dominant SCA in the Taiwanese cohort, followed by SCA6 (18%) and SCA1 (3%). No expansions of SCA types 2, 10, 12, or dentatorubropallidoluysian atrophy (DRPLA) were detected. The clinical phenotypes of these affected SCA patients were very heterogeneous. All of them showed clinical symptoms of cerebellar ataxia, with or without other associated features. The frequencies of large normal alleles are closely associated with the prevalence of SCA1, SCA2, MJD/SCA3, SCA6, and DRPLA among Taiwanese, Japanese, and Caucasians. Interestingly, abnormal expansions of SCA8 and SCA17 genes were detected in patients with PD. The clinical presentation for these patients is typical of idiopathic PD with the following characteristics: late onset of disease, resting tremor in the limbs, rigidity, bradykinesia, and a good response to levodopa. This study appears to be the first report describing the PD phenotype in association with an expanded allele in the TATA-binding protein gene and suggests that SCA8 may also be a cause of typical PD.
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