A series of cases with Huntington-like phenotype and intermediate repeats in HTT

Here we describe the larger series of clinical cases (n = 14) with HD-like phenotype and IAs published to date.  MRI and FDG-PET neuroimaging findings compatible with HD can be found in some patients with IA.  Larger and more detailed series are needed to assess the pathogenic role of IAs in HTT gene.

Intermediate Alleles (IAs) are expansions of CAG repeats in the HTT gene between 27 and 35 repeats which pathogenic meaning remains controversial. They are present in the general population but there is an increasing number of cases with Huntington-like phenotype reported.

We reviewed the medical records of cases in our centre where the neurologist suspected Huntington's disease (HD) as one of the feasible diagnoses and genetic testing showed the number of CAG repeats was in the “intermediate range”. We gathered the type of symptoms in all cases and the main neuroimaging findings when available.

We found 14 cases, 8 males and 6 females, with average age at onset at 64 years old. Most cases exhibited some type of extrapyramidal symptoms. Cognitive and/or behavioral symptoms were also present in most cases (being depression, anxiety and cognitive impairment the most frequent ones). In one case we found deposits of iron in the basal ganglia in the MRI, and in another case we found diffuse cortical hypometabolism with predominantly frontal bilateral involvement and bilateral focal deficit of both caudate and thalamus in the FDG-PET.

The clinical and neuroimaging findings of some cases with IA in this series are compatible with the clinical picture of HD but also with several other alternative diagnoses. Therefore we can not establish association between IA and HD. Larger series with more comprehensive diagnostic workout and neuropathological studies are needed to confirm or rule out whether IAs in the HTT gene may cause HD.