Friedreich's ataxia is associated with GAA trinucleotide repeat expansions in the frataxin gene. In the general population, these trinucleotide expansions are variable in length, and three types of expansions are seen: short, intermediate, and long repeats. Friedreich's ataxia patients are generally homozygous for the long repeats and exhibit diabetes as pronounced comorbidity. Ristow et al. recently reported an association between the intermediate-length normal allele in the frataxin gene and type 2 diabetes. We have investigated in 94 subjects with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) as to whether the length of the GAA trinucleotide repeat polymorphism in the frataxin gene associates with parameters reflecting beta-cell function. A hyperglycemic clamp at 10 mmol/l glucose for 3 h was used to quantitate beta-cell characteristics. Carriers of one or two intermediate repeat alleles (n = 32) had a 50% higher median first- phase insulin response to glucose than the noncarriers. Furthermore, they needed less time to reach peak insulin. An analysis of the distribution of the various repeat lengths in elderly type 2 diabetic (n = 179) and control subjects (n = 183), with the same age and ethnic background, did not provide evidence for an association of the intermediate-length repeat allele with type 2 diabetes in Dutch Caucasians.

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