Linkage studies in families of spinal muscular atrophy patients found that 95% of all cases of spinal muscular atrophy were linked to the 5q13 region of chromosome 5. Two candidate genes within this region were first described: the survival motor neuron (SMN) gene and neuronal apoptosis inhibitory protein gene. Each of these genes was found to be present in at least two copies.
The frequency of homozygous deletion of the intact NAIP gene was found to be different in SMA type I and type II/III (45% versus 18%), thus leading to the suggestion that the severity of the disease may depend on the deletion of the NAIP gene.
Analysis of both the SMN and NAIP genes is significantly complicated by the existence of highly homologous genes that limit the ability of the currently used tests to detect only homozygous deletion of these genes.