Neuropathology of fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome (FXTAS)

C. M. Greco, Robert F Berman, Ryan Martin, Flora Tassone, P. H. Schwartz, A. Chang, B. D. Trapp, C. Iwahashi, James A Brunberg, J. Grigsby, David R Hessl, E. J. Becker, J. Papazian, M. A. Leehey, Randi J Hagerman, Paul J Hagerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

409 Scopus citations


Fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome (FXTAS) is an adult-onset neurodegenerative disorder that affects carriers, principally males, of premutation alleles (55-200 CGG repeats) of the fragile X mental retardation 1 (FMR1) gene. Clinical features of FXTAS include progressive intention tremor and gait ataxia, accompanied by characteristic white matter abnormalities on MRI. The neuropathological hallmark of FXTAS is an intranuclear inclusion, present in both neurons and astrocytes throughout the CNS. Prior to the current work, the nature of the associations between inclusion loads and molecular measures (e.g. CGG repeat) was not defined. Post-mortem brain and spinal cord tissue has been examined for gross and microscopic pathology in a series of 11 FXTAS cases (males, age 67-87 years at the time of death). Quantitative counts of inclusion numbers were performed in various brain regions in both neurons and astrocytes. Inclusion counts were compared with specific molecular (CGG repeat, FMR1 mRNA level) and clinical (age of onset, age of death) parameters. In the current series, the three most prominent neuropathological characteristics are (i) significant cerebral and cerebellar white matter disease, (ii) associated astrocytic pathology with dramatically enlarged inclusion-bearing astrocytes prominent in cerebral white matter and (iii) the presence of intranuclear inclusions in both brain and spinal cord. The pattern of white matter pathology is distinct from that associated with hypertensive vascular disease and other diseases of white matter. Spongiosis was present in the middle cerebellar peduncles in seven of the eight cases in which those tissues were available for study. There is inclusion formation in cranial nerve nucleus XII and in autonomic neurons of the spinal cord. The most striking finding is the highly significant association between the number of CGG repeats and the numbers of intranuclear inclusions in both neurons and astrocytes, indicating that the CGG repeat is a powerful predictor of neurological involvement in males, both clinically (age of death) and neuropathologically (number of inclusions).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-255
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006


  • Dementia
  • FMR1
  • Parkinson
  • RNA toxicity
  • Trinucleotide repeat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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