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Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 3 (SCA3): Thalamic Neurodegeneration Occurs Independently from Thalamic Ataxin-3 Immunopositive Neuronal Intranuclear Inclusions

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In the last years progress has been made regarding the involvement of the thalamus during the course of the currently known polyglutamine diseases. Although recent studies have shown that the thalamus consistently undergoes neurodegeneration in Huntington’s disease (HD) and spinocerebellar ataxia type 2 (SCA2) it is still unclear whether it is also a consistent target of the pathological process of spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 (SCA3). Accordingly we studied the thalamic pathoanatomy and distribution pattern of ataxin-3 immunopositive neuronal intranuclear inclusions (NI) in nine clinically diagnosed and genetically confirmed SCA3 patients and carried out a detailed statistical analysis of our findings. During our pathoanatomical study we disclosed (i) a consistent degeneration of the ventral anterior, ventral lateral and reticular thalamic nuclei; (ii) a degeneration of the ventral posterior lateral nucleus and inferior and lateral subnuclei of the pulvinar in the majority of these SCA3 patients; and (iii) a degeneration of the ventral posterior medial and lateral posterior thalamic nuclei, the lateral geniculate body and some of the limbic thalamic nuclei in some of them. Upon immunocytochemical analysis we detected NI in all of the thalamic nuclei of all of our SCA3 patients. According to our statistical analysis (i) thalamic neurodegeneration and the occurrence of ataxin-3 immunopositive thalamic NI was not associated with the individual length of the CAG-repeats in the mutated SCA3 allele, the patients age at disease onset and the duration of SCA3 and (ii) thalamic neurodegeneration was not correlated with the occurrence of ataxin-3 immunopositive thalamic NI. This lack of correlation may suggest that ataxin-3 immunopositive NI are not immediately decisive for the fate of affected nerve cells but rather represent unspecific and pathognomonic morphological markers of SCA3.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Laboratorium Pathologie Oost Nederland, Burg. Edo Bergsmalaan 1, Enschede, the Netherlands. 2: Department of Neurology, 3: Institute for Clinical Neuroanatomy, 4: Center of Neurology and Hertie-Institute for Clinical Brain Research, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany. 5: Section Molecular Neurogenetics, Department of Neurology, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University, Frankfurt/Main, Germany. 6: Neuropathology Division, University Clinic of Mainz, Mainz, Germany. 7: Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands. 8: Morphological Brain Research Unit, Julius Maximilians University, Würzburg, Germany. 9: Department of Neurology, University of Iowa College of Medicine, Iowa City, Iowa, USA.

Publication date: July 1, 2006

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