In 22 families with the "pure" form of hereditary spastic paraplegia inheritance was autosomal dominant in 19 and autosomal recessive in three. Examination of intrafamilial correlation of age of onset in the dominant cases suggested that the disorder is genetically heterogeneous. Two forms of dominant hereditary spastic paraplegia were identified: one with an age of onset mostly below 35 years (type I), and the other onset usually over 35 years (type II). In the type I cases, delay in walking was not infrequent and spasticity of the lower limbs was more marked than weakness. The disorder was very slowly progressive and was extremely variable in terms of severity. Sixteen per cent of the patients aged over 20 years were asymptomatic but clinically affected. In the type II group muscle weakness, urinary symptoms and sensory loss were more marked. This form of the disease evolved more rapidly. In the three families demonstrating autosomal recessive inheritance the clinical features were very similar to those of the dominant cases. Biological fitness of patients from both the dominant groups was not impaired and no definite evidence of new mutation was observed. A cumulative frequency curve of age of onset in the type I group was constructed with suggested that an asymptomatic child of an affected parent has a 20% chance of developing the disease at the age of 25 years; the risk is probably even less if the child is clinically normal.
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