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September 1990

Family With Dominantly Inherited Ataxia, Amyotrophy, and Peripheral Sensory Loss: Spinopontine Atrophy or Machado-Joseph Azorean Disease in Another Non-Portuguese Family?

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Pathology (Laboratory of Neuropathology) (Drs Eto and Sumi) and Medicine (Drs Sumi, Bird, McEvoy-Bush, and Schellenberg), University of Washington School of Medicine, and Veterans Administration Hospital (Drs Sumi, Bird, McEvoy-Bush, and Schellenberg), Seattle; and the Department of Biostatistics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (Dr Boehnke).

Arch Neurol. 1990;47(9):968-974. doi:10.1001/archneur.1990.00530090038011

• A family of German extraction with progressive ataxia, eye movement abnormalities, peripheral sensory loss, and spinal muscular atrophy of adult onset is described. Three members came to autopsy, and neuropathologically, the major changes included varying degrees of atrophy of the basis pontis and degeneration of the spinocerebellar tracts, Clarke's columns, anterior horn neurons, and fasciculus gracilis. The dentate nucleus was spared, and there was slight neuron loss from the substantia nigra in one patient. Clinically and neuropathologically, our family resembles that reported by Boiler and Segarra as having spinopontine atrophy. However, several kindreds with similar findings have recently been described as having Azorean or Machado-Joseph disease in non-Portuguese families. Comparison of clinical and neuropathological features in spinopontine atrophy and Machado-Joseph disease, both in Portuguese and non-Portuguese families, reveals clinical and pathological similarities and differences between the two. The major differences in our patients include only minor extraocular movement abnormality and absence of protuberant eyes, and muscular rigidity clinically, and the sparing of the substantia nigra and the dentate nucleus neuropathologically. These differences suggest that spinopontine atrophy, as manifested in our family, is distinct from Machado-Joseph disease. Our family showed no linkage to the HLA locus on chromosome 6.

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