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Reviewed December 2009

What is the official name of the SMN2 gene?

The official name of this gene is “survival of motor neuron 2, centromeric.”

SMN2 is the gene's official symbol. The SMN2 gene is also known by other names, listed below.

Read more about gene names and symbols on the About page.

What is the normal function of the SMN2 gene?

The SMN2 gene provides instructions for making the survival motor neuron (SMN) protein. The SMN protein is found throughout the body, with high levels in the spinal cord. This protein is particularly important for the maintenance of specialized nerve cells called motor neurons, which are located in the spinal cord and the part of the brain that is connected to the spinal cord (the brainstem). Motor neurons control muscle movements.

Several different versions of the SMN protein are produced from the SMN2 gene, but only one version (called isoform d) is full size and fully functional. The other versions are smaller and easily broken down. The full-size protein made from the SMN2 gene is identical to the protein made from a similar gene called SMN1; however, much less full-size SMN protein is produced from the SMN2 gene compared with the SMN1 gene.

In cells, the SMN protein plays an important role in processing molecules called messenger RNA (mRNA), which serve as genetic blueprints for making proteins. Messenger RNA begins as a rough draft (pre-mRNA) and goes through several processing steps to become a final, mature form. The SMN protein helps to assemble the cellular machinery needed to process pre-mRNA. The SMN protein may have additional functions in nerve cells. Research findings indicate that the SMN protein is important for the development of specialized outgrowths from nerve cells called dendrites and axons. Dendrites and axons are required for the transmission of impulses from nerve to nerve and from nerves to muscles.

How are changes in the SMN2 gene related to health conditions?

spinal muscular atrophy - course of condition modified by extra copies of the SMN2 gene

Typically, people have two copies of the SMN1 gene and up to two copies of the SMN2 gene in each cell. In people with spinal muscular atrophy, both copies of the SMN1 gene are altered or missing. In some cases, individuals have three or more copies of the SMN2 gene. In those with spinal muscular atrophy, additional copies of the SMN2 gene are associated with a milder course of the disorder.

When both copies of the SMN1 gene are altered or missing, little or no SMN protein is produced from this gene. Extra SMN2 genes can help replace some of the SMN protein that is lost due to mutations in the SMN1 genes. The symptoms of spinal muscular atrophy still occur, however, because only a small amount of the full-size SMN protein is produced from the SMN2 genes. In general, symptoms are less severe and begin later in life in affected individuals with three or more copies of the SMN2 gene compared with those who have two copies of this gene.

Where is the SMN2 gene located?

Cytogenetic Location: 5q13.2

Molecular Location on chromosome 5: base pairs 70,049,523 to 70,077,595

(Homo sapiens Annotation Release 107, GRCh38.p2) (NCBIThis link leads to a site outside Genetics Home Reference.)

The SMN2 gene is located on the long (q) arm of chromosome 5 at position 13.2.

The SMN2 gene is located on the long (q) arm of chromosome 5 at position 13.2.

More precisely, the SMN2 gene is located from base pair 70,049,523 to base pair 70,077,595 on chromosome 5.

See How do geneticists indicate the location of a gene? in the Handbook.

Where can I find additional information about SMN2?

You and your healthcare professional may find the following resources about SMN2 helpful.

You may also be interested in these resources, which are designed for genetics professionals and researchers.

What other names do people use for the SMN2 gene or gene products?

  • BCD541
  • C-BCD541
  • centromeric SMN
  • SMNC

Where can I find general information about genes?

The Handbook provides basic information about genetics in clear language.

These links provide additional genetics resources that may be useful.

What glossary definitions help with understanding SMN2?

atrophy ; axons ; brainstem ; cell ; gene ; gene conversion ; messenger RNA ; motor ; motor neuron ; mRNA ; neuron ; protein ; RNA

You may find definitions for these and many other terms in the Genetics Home Reference Glossary.

See also Understanding Medical Terminology.

References (15 links)


The resources on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Users seeking information about a personal genetic disease, syndrome, or condition should consult with a qualified healthcare professional. See How can I find a genetics professional in my area? in the Handbook.

Reviewed: December 2009
Published: February 1, 2016