European Journal of Human Genetics vol:9 issue:7 pages:484-91
With a prevalence of approximately 1/10 000, and a carrier frequency of 1/40-1/60 the proximal spinal muscular atrophies (SMAs) are among the most frequent autosomal recessive hereditary disorders. Patients can be classified clinically into four groups: acute, intermediate, mild, and adult (SMA types I, II, III, and IV, respectively). The complexity and instability of the genomic region at chromosome 5q13 harbouring the disease-causing survival motor neuron 1 (SMN1) gene hamper molecular diagnosis in SMA. In addition, affected individuals with SMA-like phenotypes not caused by SMN1, and asymptomatic individuals with two mutant alleles exist. The SMN gene is present in at least one telomeric (SMN1) and one centromeric copy (SMN2) per chromosome in normal (non-carrier) individuals, although chromosomes containing more copies of SMN1 and/or SMN2 exist. Moreover, the two SMN genes (SMN1 and SMN2) are highly homologous and contain only five base-pair differences within their 3' ends. Also, a relatively high de novo frequency is present in SMA. Guidelines for molecular analysis in diagnostic applications, carrier detection, and prenatal analysis using direct and indirect approaches are described. Overviews of materials used in the molecular diagnosis as well as Internet resources are included.