Background: The haplotype H1 of the tau gene, MAPT, is highly associated with progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and corticobasal degeneration (CBD). Objective: To investigate the pathogenic basis of this association. Methods: Detailed linkage disequilibrium and common haplotype structure of MAPT were examined in 27 CEPH trios using validated HapMap genotype data for 24 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) spanning MAPT. Results: Multiple variants of the H1 haplotype were resolved, reflecting a far greater diversity of MAPT than can be explained by the H1 and H2 clades alone. Based on this, six haplotype tagging SNPs (htSNPs) that capture 95% of the common haplotype diversity were used to genotype well characterised PSP and CBD case-control cohorts. In addition to strong association with PSP and CBD of individual SNPs, two common haplotypes derived from these htSNPs were identified that are highly associated with PSP: the sole H2 derived haplotype was underrepresented and one of the common H1 derived haplotypes was highly associated, with a similar trend observed in CBD. There were powerful and highly significant associations with PSP and CBD of haplotypes formed by three H1 specific SNPs. This made it possible to define a candidate region of at least ∼56 kb, spanning sequences from upstream of MAPT exon 1 to intron 9. On the H1 haplotype background, these could harbour the pathogenic variants. Conclusions: The findings support the pathological evidence that underlying variations in MAPT could contribute to disease pathogenesis by subtle effects on gene expression and/or splicing. They also form the basis for the investigation of the possible genetic role of MAPT in Parkinson's disease and other tauopathies, including Alzheimer's disease.
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