Spinocerebellar ataxia type 3(SCA3), or Machado-Joseph disease (MJD), is an autosomal dominantly-inherited disease that produces progressive problems with movement. It is caused by the expansion of an area of CAG repeats in a coding region of ATXN3. The number of repeats is inversely associated with age at disease onset (AO) and is significantly associated with disease severity; however, the degree of CAG expansion only explains 50 to 70% of variance in AO. We tested two SNPs, rs709930 and rs910369, in the 3' UTR of ATXN3 gene for association with SCA3/MJD risk and with SCA3/MJD AO in an independent cohort of 170 patients with SCA3/MJD and 200 healthy controls from mainland China. rs709930 genotype frequencies were statistically significantly different between patients and controls (p = 0.001, α = 0.05). SCA3/MJD patients carrying the rs709930 A allele and rs910369 T allele experienced an earlier onset, with a decrease in AO of approximately 2 to 4 years. The two novel SNPs found in this study might be genetic modifiers for AO in SCA3/MJD.
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