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Clinical and Molecular Correlates of Abnormal Changes in the Cerebellum and Globus Pallidus in Fragile X Premutation.



Fragile X premutation carriers (55-200 CGG triplets) may develop a progressive neurodegenerative disorder, fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome (FXTAS), after the age of 50. The neuroradiologic markers of FXTAS are hyperintense T2-signals in the middle cerebellar peduncle-the MCP sign. We recently noticed abnormal T2-signals in the globus pallidus in male premutation carriers and controls but the prevalence and clinical significance were unknown.


We estimated the prevalence of the MCP sign and pallidal T2-abnormalities in 230 male premutation carriers and 144 controls (aged 8-86), and examined the associations with FXTAS symptoms, CGG repeat length, and iron content in the cerebellar dentate nucleus and globus pallidus.


Among participants aged ≥45 years (175 premutation carriers and 82 controls), MCP sign was observed only in premutation carriers (52 vs. 0%) whereas the prevalence of pallidal T2-abnormalities approached significance in premutation carriers compared with controls after age-adjustment (25.1 vs. 13.4%, p = 0.069). MCP sign was associated with impaired motor and executive functioning, and the additional presence of pallidal T2-abnormalities was associated with greater impaired executive functioning. Among premutation carriers, significant iron accumulation was observed in the dentate nucleus, and neither pallidal or MCP T2-abnormalities affected measures of the dentate nucleus. While the MCP sign was associated with CGG repeat length >75 and dentate nucleus volume correlated negatively with CGG repeat length, pallidal T2-abnormalities did not correlate with CGG repeat length. However, pallidal signal changes were associated with age-related accelerated iron depletion and variability and having both MCP and pallidal signs further increased iron variability in the globus pallidus.


Only the MCP sign, not pallidal abnormalities, revealed independent associations with motor and cognitive impairment; however, the occurrence of combined MCP and pallidal T2-abnormalities may present a risk for greater cognitive impairment and increased iron variability in the globus pallidus.

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