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The expansion of a hexanucleotide repeat GGGGCC in C9orf72 is the most common known cause of ALS accounting for ~ 40% familial cases and ~ 7% sporadic cases in the European population. In most people, the repeat length is 2, but in people with ALS, hundreds to thousands of repeats may be observed. A small proportion of people have an intermediate expansion, of the order of 20 to 30 repeats in size, and it remains unknown whether intermediate expansions confer risk of ALS in the same way that massive expansions do. We investigated the association of this intermediate repeat with ALS by performing a meta-analysis of four previously published studies and a new British/Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative dataset of 1295 cases and 613 controls. The final dataset comprised 5071 cases and 3747 controls. Our meta-analysis showed association between ALS and intermediate C9orf72 repeats of 24 to 30 repeats in size (random-effects model OR = 4.2, 95% CI = 1.23-14.35, p-value = 0.02). Furthermore, we showed a different frequency of the repeat between the northern and southern European populations (Fisher's exact test p-value = 5 × 10- 3). Our findings provide evidence for the association between intermediate repeats and ALS (p-value = 2 × 10- 4) with direct relevance for research and clinical practice by showing that an expansion of 24 or more repeats should be considered pathogenic.

Original publication




Journal article


Acta Neuropathol Commun

Publication Date





ALS, C9orf72, Genetics, Next-generation sequencing, Repeat expansion, Whole-genome sequencing, Aged, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, C9orf72 Protein, DNA Repeat Expansion, Databases, Genetic, European Continental Ancestry Group, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Whole Genome Sequencing