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1.  TMEM106B gene polymorphism is associated with age at onset in granulin mutation carriers and plasma granulin protein levels 
Archives of neurology  2011;68(5):581-586.
Objective
A recent genome-wide association study for frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TAR DNA-binding protein inclusions (FTLD-TDP), identified rs1990622 (TMEM106B) as a risk factor for FTLD-TDP. In this study we tested whether rs1990622 is associated with age at onset (AAO) in granulin (GRN) mutation carriers and with plasma GRN levels in mutation carriers and healthy elderly individuals.
Design
Rs1990622 was genotyped in GRN mutation carriers and tested for association with AAO using the Kaplan-Meier and a Cox proportional hazards model.
Subjects
We analyzed 50 affected and unaffected GRN mutation carriers from four previously reported FTLD-TDP families (HDDD1, FD1, HDDD2 and the Karolinska family). GRN plasma levels were also measured in 73 healthy, elderly individuals.
Results
The risk allele of rs1990622 is associated with a mean decrease of the age at onset of thirteen years (p=9.9×10−7), with lower plasma granulin levels in both healthy older adults (p = 4×10−4) and GRN mutation carriers (p=0.0027). Analysis of the HAPMAP database identified a non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphism, rs3173615 (T185S) in perfect linkage disequilibrium with rs1990622.
Conclusions
The association of rs1990622 with AAO explains, in part, the wide range in the age at onset of disease among GRN mutation carriers. We hypothesize that rs1990622 or another variant in linkage disequilibrium could act in a manner similar to APOE in Alzheimer’s disease, increasing risk for disease in the general population and modifying AAO in mutation carriers. Our results also suggest that genetic variation in TMEM106B may influence risk for FTLD-TDP by modulating secreted levels of GRN.
doi:10.1001/archneurol.2010.350
PMCID: PMC3090529  PMID: 21220649
2.  Genetic and Clinical Features of Progranulin-Associated Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration 
Archives of neurology  2011;68(4):488-497.
Objective
To assess the relative frequency of unique mutations and their associated characteristics in 97 individuals with mutations in progranulin (GRN), an important cause of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD).
Participants and Design
A 46-site International Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration Collaboration was formed to collect cases of FTLD with TAR DNA-binding protein of 43-kDa (TDP-43)–positive inclusions (FTLD-TDP). We identified 97 individuals with FTLD-TDP with pathogenic GRN mutations (GRN+ FTLD-TDP), assessed their genetic and clinical characteristics, and compared them with 453 patients with FTLD-TDP in which GRN mutations were excluded (GRN− FTLD-TDP). No patients were known to be related. Neuropathologic characteristics were confirmed as FTLD-TDP in 79 of the 97 GRN+ FTLDTDP cases and all of the GRN− FTLD-TDP cases.
Results
Age at onset of FTLD was younger in patients with GRN+ FTLD-TDP vs GRN− FTLD-TDP (median, 58.0 vs 61.0 years; P<.001), as was age at death (median, 65.5 vs 69.0 years; P<.001). Concomitant motor neuron disease was much less common in GRN+ FTLDTDP vs GRN− FTLD-TDP (5.4% vs 26.3%; P<.001). Fifty different GRN mutations were observed, including 2 novel mutations: c.139delG (p.D47TfsX7) and c.378C>A (p.C126X). The 2 most common GRN mutations were c.1477C>T (p.R493X, found in 18 patients, representing 18.6% of GRN cases) and c.26C>A (p.A9D, found in 6 patients, representing 6.2% of cases). Patients with the c.1477C>T mutation shared a haplotype on chromosome 17; clinically, they resembled patients with other GRN mutations. Patients with the c.26C>A mutation appeared to have a younger age at onset of FTLD and at death and more parkinsonian features than those with other GRN mutations.
Conclusion
GRN+ FTLD-TDP differs in key features from GRN− FTLD-TDP.
doi:10.1001/archneurol.2011.53
PMCID: PMC3160280  PMID: 21482928
3.  Promoter DNA methylation regulates progranulin expression and is altered in FTLD 
Background
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is a heterogeneous group of neurodegenerative diseases associated with personality changes and progressive dementia. Loss-of-function mutations in the growth factor progranulin (GRN) cause autosomal dominant FTLD, but so far the pathomechanism of sporadic FTLD is unclear.
Results
We analyzed whether DNA methylation in the GRN core promoter restricts GRN expression and, thus, might promote FTLD in the absence of GRN mutations. GRN expression in human lymphoblast cell lines is negatively correlated with methylation at several CpG units within the GRN promoter. Chronic treatment with the DNA methyltransferase inhibitor 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine (DAC) strongly induces GRN mRNA and protein levels. In a reporter assay, CpG methylation blocks transcriptional activity of the GRN core promoter. In brains of FTLD patients several CpG units in the GRN promoter are significantly hypermethylated compared to age-matched healthy controls, Alzheimer and Parkinson patients. These CpG motifs are critical for GRN promoter activity in reporter assays. Furthermore, DNA methyltransferase 3a (DNMT3a) is upregulated in FTLD patients and overexpression of DNMT3a reduces GRN promoter activity and expression.
Conclusion
These data suggest that altered DNA methylation is a novel pathomechanism for FTLD that is potentially amenable to targeted pharmacotherapy.
doi:10.1186/2051-5960-1-16
PMCID: PMC3893557  PMID: 24252647
5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine; DNA methylation; Epigenetics; FTLD; Progranulin
4.  Common variation in the miR-659 binding-site of GRN is a major risk factor for TDP43-positive frontotemporal dementia 
Human Molecular Genetics  2008;17(23):3631-3642.
Loss-of-function mutations in progranulin (GRN) cause ubiquitin- and TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43)-positive frontotemporal dementia (FTLD-U), a progressive neurodegenerative disease affecting ∼10% of early-onset dementia patients. Here we expand the role of GRN in FTLD-U and demonstrate that a common genetic variant (rs5848), located in the 3′-untranslated region (UTR) of GRN in a binding-site for miR-659, is a major susceptibility factor for FTLD-U. In a series of pathologically confirmed FTLD-U patients without GRN mutations, we show that carriers homozygous for the T-allele of rs5848 have a 3.2-fold increased risk to develop FTLD-U compared with homozygous C-allele carriers (95% CI: 1.50–6.73). We further demonstrate that miR-659 can regulate GRN expression in vitro, with miR-659 binding more efficiently to the high risk T-allele of rs5848 resulting in augmented translational inhibition of GRN. A significant reduction in GRN protein was observed in homozygous T-allele carriers in vivo, through biochemical and immunohistochemical methods, mimicking the effect of heterozygous loss-of-function GRN mutations. In support of these findings, the neuropathology of homozygous rs5848 T-allele carriers frequently resembled the pathological FTLD-U subtype of GRN mutation carriers. We suggest that the expression of GRN is regulated by miRNAs and that common genetic variability in a miRNA binding-site can significantly increase the risk for FTLD-U. Translational regulation by miRNAs may represent a common mechanism underlying complex neurodegenerative disorders.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddn257
PMCID: PMC2581433  PMID: 18723524
5.  Brain progranulin expression in GRN-associated frontotemporal lobar degeneration 
Acta neuropathologica  2009;119(1):111-122.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP- 43 inclusions (FTLD-TDP) is characterized by progressive decline in behavior, executive function, and language. Progranulin (GRN) gene mutations are pathogenic for FTLD-TDP, and GRN transcript haploinsufficiency is the proposed disease mechanism. However, the evidence for this hypothesis comes mainly from blood-derived cells; we measured progranulin expression in brain. We characterized mRNA and protein levels of progranulin from four brain regions (frontal cortex, temporal cortex, occipital cortex, and cerebellum) in FTLD-TDP patients with and without GRN mutations, as well as neurologically normal individuals. Moreover, we performed immunohistochemistry to evaluate the degree of TDP-43 pathology and microglial infiltration present in these groups. In most brain regions, patients with GRN mutations showed mRNA levels comparable to normal controls and to FTLD-TDP without GRN mutations. However, GRN transcript levels in a brain region severely affected by disease (frontal cortex) were increased in mutation-bearing patients. When compared with normal individuals, GRN mutation-bearing cases had a significant reduction in the amount of progranulin protein in the cerebellum and occipital cortex, but not in the frontal and temporal cortices. In GRN mutant cases, GRN mRNA originated from the normal allele, and moderate microglial infiltration was observed. In conclusion, GRN mutation carriers have increased levels of mRNA transcript from the normal allele in brain, and proliferation of microglia likely increases progranulin levels in affected regions of the FTLD-TDP brain, and whether or not these findings underlie the accumulation of TDP-43 pathology in FTLD-TDP linked to GRN mutations remains to be determined.
doi:10.1007/s00401-009-0576-2
PMCID: PMC3104467  PMID: 19649643
Progranulin; TDP-43; Frontotemporal dementia; Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Microglia
6.  Pooled-DNA sequencing identifies novel causative variants in PSEN1, GRN and MAPT in a clinical early-onset and familial Alzheimer's disease Ibero-American cohort 
Introduction
Some familial Alzheimer's disease (AD) cases are caused by rare and highly-penetrant mutations in APP, PSEN1, and PSEN2. Mutations in GRN and MAPT, two genes associated with frontotemporal dementia (FTD), have been found in clinically diagnosed AD cases. Due to the dramatic developments in next-generation sequencing (NGS), high-throughput sequencing of targeted genomic regions of the human genome in many individuals in a single run is now cheap and feasible. Recent findings favor the rare variant-common disease hypothesis by which the combination effects of rare variants could explain a large proportion of the heritability. We utilized NGS to identify rare and pathogenic variants in APP, PSEN1, PSEN2, GRN, and MAPT in an Ibero-American cohort.
Methods
We performed pooled-DNA sequencing of each exon and flanking sequences in APP, PSEN1, PSEN2, MAPT and GRN in 167 clinical and 5 autopsy-confirmed AD cases (15 familial early-onset, 136 sporadic early-onset and 16 familial late-onset) from Spain and Uruguay using NGS. Follow-up genotyping was used to validate variants. After genotyping additional controls, we performed segregation and functional analyses to determine the pathogenicity of validated variants.
Results
We identified a novel G to T transition (g.38816G>T) in exon 6 of PSEN1 in a sporadic early-onset AD case, resulting in a previously described pathogenic p.L173F mutation. A pathogenic p.L392V mutation in exon 11 was found in one familial early-onset AD case. We also identified a novel CC insertion (g.10974_10975insCC) in exon 8 of GRN, which introduced a premature stop codon, resulting in nonsense-mediated mRNA decay. This GRN mutation was associated with lower GRN plasma levels, as previously reported for other GRN pathogenic mutations. We found two variants in MAPT (p.A152T, p.S318L) present only in three AD cases but not controls, suggesting that these variants could be risk factors for the disease.
Conclusions
We found pathogenic mutations in PSEN1, GRN and MAPT in 2.33% of the screened cases. This study suggests that pathogenic mutations or risk variants in MAPT and in GRN are as frequent in clinical AD cases as mutations in APP, PSEN1 and PSEN2, highlighting that pleiotropy of MAPT or GRN mutations can influence both FTD and AD phenotypic traits.
doi:10.1186/alzrt137
PMCID: PMC3506948  PMID: 22906081
7.  Multimodal fMRI Resting-State Functional Connectivity in Granulin Mutations: The Case of Fronto-Parietal Dementia 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e106500.
Background
Monogenic dementias represent a great opportunity to trace disease progression from preclinical to symptomatic stages. Frontotemporal Dementia related to Granulin (GRN) mutations presents a specific framework of brain damage, involving fronto-temporal regions and long inter-hemispheric white matter bundles. Multimodal resting-state functional MRI (rs-fMRI) is a promising tool to carefully describe disease signature from the earliest disease phase.
Objective
To define local connectivity alterations in GRN related pathology moving from the presymptomatic (asymptomatic GRN mutation carriers) to the clinical phase of the disease (GRN- related Frontotemporal Dementia).
Methods
Thirty-one GRN Thr272fs mutation carriers (14 patients with Frontotemporal Dementia and 17 asymptomatic carriers) and 38 healthy controls were recruited. Local connectivity measures (Regional Homogeneity (ReHo), Fractional Amplitude of Low Frequency Fluctuation (fALFF) and Degree Centrality (DC)) were computed, considering age and gender as nuisance variables as well as the influence of voxel-level gray matter atrophy.
Results
Asymptomatic GRN carriers had selective reduced ReHo in the left parietal region and increased ReHo in frontal regions compared to healthy controls. Considering Frontotemporal Dementia patients, all measures (ReHo, fALFF and DC) were reduced in inferior parietal, frontal lobes and posterior cingulate cortex. Considering GRN mutation carriers, an inverse correlation with age in the posterior cingulate cortex, inferior parietal lobule and orbitofrontal cortex was found.
Conclusions
GRN pathology is characterized by functional brain network alterations even decades before the clinical onset; they involve the parietal region primarily and then spread to the anterior regions of the brain, supporting the concept of molecular nexopathies.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0106500
PMCID: PMC4154688  PMID: 25188321
8.  TMEM106B regulates progranulin levels and the penetrance of FTLD in GRN mutation carriers 
Neurology  2010;76(5):467-474.
Objectives:
To determine whether TMEM106B single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are associated with frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) in patients with and without mutations in progranulin (GRN) and to determine whether TMEM106B modulates GRN expression.
Methods:
We performed a case-control study of 3 SNPs in TMEM106B in 482 patients with clinical and 80 patients with pathologic FTLD–TAR DNA-binding protein 43 without GRN mutations, 78 patients with FTLD with GRN mutations, and 822 controls. Association analysis of TMEM106B with GRN plasma levels was performed in 1,013 controls and TMEM106B and GRN mRNA expression levels were correlated in peripheral blood samples from 33 patients with FTLD and 150 controls.
Results:
In our complete FTLD patient cohort, nominal significance was identified for 2 TMEM106B SNPs (top SNP rs1990622, pallelic = 0.036). However, the most significant association with risk of FTLD was observed in the subgroup of GRN mutation carriers compared to controls (corrected pallelic = 0.0009), where there was a highly significant decrease in the frequency of homozygote carriers of the minor alleles of all TMEM106B SNPs (top SNP rs1990622, CC genotype frequency 2.6% vs 19.1%, corrected precessive = 0.009). We further identified a significant association of TMEM106B SNPs with plasma GRN levels in controls (top SNP rs1990622, corrected p = 0.002) and in peripheral blood samples a highly significant correlation was observed between TMEM106B and GRN mRNA expression in patients with FTLD (r = −0.63, p = 7.7 × 10−5) and controls (r = −0.49, p = 2.2 × 10−10).
Conclusions:
In our study, TMEM106B SNPs significantly reduced the disease penetrance in patients with GRN mutations, potentially by modulating GRN levels. These findings hold promise for the development of future protective therapies for FTLD.
doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e31820a0e3b
PMCID: PMC3034409  PMID: 21178100
9.  Progranulin and TDP-43: Mechanistic Links and Future Directions 
Journal of Molecular Neuroscience  2011;45(3):561-573.
Loss-of-function mutations in the multifunctional growth factor progranulin (GRN) cause frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) with TDP-43 protein accumulation. Nuclear TDP-43 protein with key roles in RNA metabolism is also aggregated in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), suggesting that ALS and FTLD constitute a broad disease continuum. However, the fact that mutations in GRN are associated with FTLD, while mutations in TDP-43 cause a preferential loss of motor neurons resulting in ALS-end of the disease spectrum, suggests involvement of both cell-autonomous and non-autonomous mechanisms. Studies on animal models and in vitro studies have been instrumental in understanding the link between GRN and TDP-43 and also their role in neurodegeneration. For instance, in mouse models, allelic deficiencies of Grn do not recapitulate human pathology of TDP-43 brain accumulations, but embryonic neurons derived from these mice do show abnormal TDP-43 accumulation after additional cellular challenges, suggesting that TDP-43 changes observed in GRN mutation carriers might also relate to stress. Recent results have shown that the dual action of GRN in growth modulation and inflammation could be due to its negative regulation of TNF-α signaling. In addition, GRN also interacts with sortilin and is endocytosed, thereby regulating its own levels and possibly also modulating the turnover of other proteins including that of TDP-43. Accumulating evidence suggests that TDP-43 abnormal cellular aggregation causes a possible gain of function, also suggested by recently constructed mouse models of TDP-43 proteinopathy; however, it would be inconvincible that sequestration of physiological TDP-43 within cellular aggregates observed in patients would be innocuous for disease pathogenesis. This review discusses some of these data on the possible link between GRN and TDP-43 as well as mechanisms involved in TDP-43-led neurodegeneration. Continued multitiered efforts on genetic, cell biological, and animal modeling approaches would prove crucial in finding a cure for GRN-related diseases.
doi:10.1007/s12031-011-9625-0
PMCID: PMC3207122  PMID: 21863317
FTLD; ALS; Progranulin; TDP-43; Signaling; Transgenic mouse model; Pathogenesis
10.  Pathogenic Cysteine Mutations Affect Progranulin Function and Production of Mature Granulins 
Journal of neurochemistry  2009;112(5):1305-1315.
Frontotemporal dementia with ubiquitin-positive inclusions (FTLD-U) can be caused by mutations in the progranulin gene (GRN). Progranulin (PGRN) is a cysteine-rich growth factor, which is proteolytically cleaved by elastase to produce several granulins (GRNs). All FTLD-U mutations in GRN characterized to date result in reduced secreted PGRN protein. We recently reported a Spanish family with progressive nonfluent aphasia and dementia in which a novel C521Y mutation segregates with disease. A second cysteine mutation (C139R) has also been reported to be disease specific. Allele-specific mRNA expression assays in brain reveal that the C521Y mutant allele is expressed at similar levels to the wild-type allele. Furthermore, plasma PGRN levels in C521Y carriers are comparable to non-carrier family relatives, suggesting that the mutation does not affect PGRN protein expression and secretion in vivo. Despite normal PGRN levels C521Y and C139R mutant GRNs show reduced neurite growth stimulating activity in vitro. Further study revealed that these mutations also cause impaired cleavage of PGRN by elastase. Our data suggest that these mutations affect the function of full-length PGRN as well as elastase cleavage of PGRN into GRNs, leading to neurodegeneration.
doi:10.1111/j.1471-4159.2009.06546.x
PMCID: PMC2819556  PMID: 20028451
progranulin; granulin; FTD; elastase; neurite outgrowth; neuronal survival
11.  Rs5848 variant influences GRN mRNA levels in brain and peripheral mononuclear cells in patients with Alzheimer's disease 
Mutations in the progranulin gene (GRN) are causative for Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration with ubiquitin-immunoreactive neuronal inclusions (FTLD-U). However, additional studies have demonstrated that these variants could be associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD). The influence of GRN genetic variability on susceptibility to AD and on expression levels in a series of neuropathologically-confirmed AD patients as well as in Peripheral Mononuclear Cells (PBMC) and in cells isolated from cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) was investigated. An association study of rs9897526 and rs5848 was carried out in an Italian population and in a replication population of European American patients and controls.
None of the variants tested act as unequivocal susceptibility factor in both populations although a tendency to an increased frequency of rs5848T allele was observed in the Italian group of AD patients. Furthermore, rs9897526 anticipated the onset of the disease in the Italian population. GRN expression in the parietal lobe of AD cases showed a 0.76-fold decrease compared with controls (1.31±0.07 versus 1.73±0.12, P=0.0025). Patients carrying the rs5848 TT genotype had the lowest GRN expression levels (0.96±0.12, P=0.014). Despite no significant differences were found in the relative PBMC and CSF GRN expression in patients compared to controls, stratifying patients according to the presence of rs5848 T allele, a 0.57-fold decrease in GRN mRNA levels over C carriers was found in PBMC (1.22±0.23 versus 0.70±0.12, P=0.04). Similarly to data obtained in brain samples, patients carrying the TT genotype showed the lowest GRN mRNA levels (TT= 0.46±0.14, CC=1.22±0.23; P=0.013). These data argue against a direct role of GRN as a susceptibility factor for sporadic AD but support a role of GRN as a disease-modifying gene, possibly contributing to the failure of neuronal survival.
doi:10.3233/JAD-2009-1170
PMCID: PMC2842455  PMID: 19625741
Alzheimer's Disease (AD); Progranulin (GRN); Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP); Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF); Peripheral Mononuclear Cells (PBMC)
12.  Circulating progranulin as a biomarker for neurodegenerative diseases 
Progranulin is a growth factor involved in the regulation of multiple processes including tumorigenesis, wound repair, development, and inflammation. The recent discovery that mutations in the gene encoding for progranulin (GRN) cause frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), and other neurodegenerative diseases leading to dementia, has brought renewed interest in progranulin and its functions in the central nervous system. GRN null mutations cause protein haploinsufficiency, leading to a significant decrease in progranulin levels that can be detected in plasma, serum and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of mutation carriers. The dosage of circulating progranulin sped up the identification of GRN mutations thus favoring genotype-phenotype correlation studies. Researchers demonstrated that, in GRN null mutation carriers, the shortage of progranulin invariably precedes clinical symptoms and thus mutation carriers are “captured” regardless of their disease status. GRN is a particularly appealing gene for drug targeting, in the way that boosting its expression may be beneficial for mutation carriers, preventing or delaying the onset of GRN-related neurodegenerative diseases. Physiological regulation of progranulin expression level is only partially known. Progranulin expression reflects mutation status and, intriguingly, its levels can be modulated by some additional factor (i.e. genetic background; drugs). Thus, factors increasing the production and secretion of progranulin from the normal gene are promising potential therapeutic avenues. In conclusion, peripheral progranulin is a nonintrusive highly accurate biomarker for early identification of mutation carriers and for monitoring future treatments that might boost the level of this protein.
PMCID: PMC3560461  PMID: 23383391
Progranulin; haploinsufficiency; cut-off; blood; CSF; expression; frontotemporal; dementia; GRN; modulator
13.  Cognitive Reserve in Granulin-Related Frontotemporal Dementia: from Preclinical to Clinical Stages 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e74762.
Objective
Consistent with the cognitive reserve hypothesis, higher education and occupation attainments may help persons with neurodegenerative dementias to better withstand neuropathology before developing cognitive impairment. We tested here the cognitive reserve hypothesis in patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD), with or without pathogenetic granulin mutations (GRN+ and GRN-), and in presymptomatic GRN mutation carriers (aGRN+).
Methods
Education and occupation attainments were assessed and combined to define Reserve Index (RI) in 32 FTD patients, i.e. 12 GRN+ and 20 GRN-, and in 17 aGRN+. Changes in functional connectivity were estimated by resting state fMRI, focusing on the salience network (SN), executive network (EN) and bilateral frontoparietal networks (FPNs). Cognitive status was measured by FTD-modified Clinical Dementia Rating Scale.
Results
In FTD patients higher level of premorbid cognitive reserve was associated with reduced connectivity within the SN and the EN. EN was more involved in FTD patients without GRN mutations, while SN was more affected in GRN pathology. In aGRN+, cognitive reserve was associated with reduced SN.
Conclusions
This study suggests that cognitive reserve modulates functional connectivity in patients with FTD, even in monogenic disease. In GRN inherited FTD, cognitive reserve mechanisms operate even in presymptomatic to clinical stages.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0074762
PMCID: PMC3767639  PMID: 24040338
14.  Mechanisms of Granulin Deficiency: Lessons from Cellular and Animal Models 
Molecular Neurobiology  2012;47(1):337-360.
The identification of causative mutations in the (pro)granulin gene (GRN) has been a major breakthrough in the research on frontotemporal dementia (FTD). So far, all FTD-associated GRN mutations are leading to neurodegeneration through a “loss-of-function” mechanism, encouraging researchers to develop a growing number of cellular and animal models for GRN deficiency. GRN is a multifunctional secreted growth factor, and loss of its function can affect different cellular processes. Besides loss-of-function (i.e., mostly premature termination codons) mutations, which cause GRN haploinsufficiency through reduction of GRN expression, FTD-associated GRN missense mutations have also been identified. Several of these missense mutations are predicted to increase the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases through altering various key biological properties of GRN-like protein secretion, proteolytic processing, and neurite outgrowth. With the use of cellular and animal models for GRN deficiency, the portfolio of GRN functions has recently been extended to include functions in important biological processes like energy and protein homeostasis, inflammation as well as neuronal survival, neurite outgrowth, and branching. Furthermore, GRN-deficient animal models have been established and they are believed to be promising disease models as they show accelerated aging and recapitulate at least some neuropathological features of FTD. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge on the molecular mechanisms leading to GRN deficiency and the lessons we learned from the established cellular and animal models. Furthermore, we discuss how these insights might help in developing therapeutic strategies for GRN-associated FTD.
doi:10.1007/s12035-012-8380-8
PMCID: PMC3538123  PMID: 23239020
Neurodegeneration; FTD; Progranulin; Granulins; Cellular model; Animal model; Growth factor; Therapy
15.  A distinct clinical, neuropsychological and radiological phenotype is associated with progranulin gene mutations in a large UK series 
Brain : a journal of neurology  2008;131(Pt 3):706-720.
Mutations in the progranulin gene (GRN) are a major cause of frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitin-positive, tau-negative inclusions (FTLD-U) but the distinguishing clinical and anatomical features of this subgroup remain unclear. In a large UK cohort we found five different frameshift and premature termination mutations likely to be causative of FTLD in 25 affected family members. A previously described 4-bp insertion mutation in GRN exon 2 comprised the majority of cases in our cohort (20/25), with four novel mutations being identified in the other five affected members. Additional novel missense changes were discovered, of uncertain pathogenicity, but deletion of the entire gene was not detected. The patient collection was investigated by a single tertiary referral centre and is enriched for familial early onset FTLD with a high proportion of patients undergoing neuropsychological testing, MRI and eventual neuropathological diagnosis. Age at onset was variable, but four mutation carriers presented in their 40s and when analysed as a group, the mean age at onset of disease in GRN mutation carriers was later than tau gene (MAPT) mutation carriers and duration of disease was shorter when compared with both MAPTand FTLD-U without mutation. The most common clinical presentation seen in GRN mutation carriers was behavioural variant FTLD with apathy as the dominant feature. However, many patients had language output impairment that was either a progressive non-fluent aphasia or decreased speech output consistent with a dynamic aphasia. Neurological and neuropsychological examination also suggests that parietal lobe dysfunction is a characteristic feature of GRN mutation and differentiates this group from other patients with FTLD. MR imaging showed evidence of strikingly asymmetrical atrophy with the frontal, temporal and parietal lobes all affected. Both right- and left-sided predominant atrophy was seen even within the same family. As a group, the GRN carriers showed more asymmetry than in other FTLD groups. All pathologically investigated cases showed extensive type 3 TDP-43-positive pathology, including frequent neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions, dystrophic neurites in both grey and white matter and also neuronal intranuclear inclusions. Finally, we confirmed a modifying effect of APOE-E4 genotype on clinical phenotype with a later onset in the GRN carriers suggesting that this gene has distinct phenotypic effects in different neurodegenerative diseases.
doi:10.1093/brain/awm320
PMCID: PMC2577762  PMID: 18234697
frontotemporal lobar degeneration; frontotemporal dementia; progranulin; progressive aphasia
16.  The Spectrum of Mutations in Progranulin 
Archives of neurology  2010;67(2):161-170.
Background
Mutation in the progranulin gene (GRN) can cause frontotemporal dementia (FTD). However, it is unclear whether some rare FTD-related GRN variants are pathogenic and whether neurodegenerative disorders other than FTD can also be caused by GRN mutations.
Objectives
To delineate the range of clinical presentations associated with GRN mutations and to define pathogenic candidacy of rare GRN variants.
Design
Case-control study.
Setting
Clinical and neuropathology dementia research studies at 8 academic centers.
Participants
Four hundred thirty-four patients with FTD, including primary progressive aphasia, semantic dementia, FTD/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), FTD/motor neuron disease, corticobasal syndrome/corticobasal degeneration, progressive supranuclear palsy, Pick disease, dementia lacking distinctive histopathology, and pathologically confirmed cases of frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitin-positive inclusions (FTLD-U); and 111 non-FTD cases (controls) in which TDP-43 deposits were a prominent neuropathological feature, including subjects with ALS, Guam ALS and/or parkinsonism dementia complex, Guam dementia, Alzheimer disease, multiple system atrophy, and argyrophilic grain disease.
Main Outcome Measures
Variants detected on sequencing of all 13 GRN exons and at least 80 base pairs of flanking introns, and their pathogenic candidacy determined by in silico and ex vivo splicing assays.
Results
We identified 58 genetic variants that included 26 previously unknown changes. Twenty-four variants appeared to be pathogenic, including 8 novel mutations. The frequency of GRN mutations was 6.9% (30 of 434) of all FTD-spectrum cases, 21.4% (9 of 42) of cases with a pathological diagnosis of FTLD-U, 16.0% (28 of 175) of FTD-spectrum cases with a family history of a similar neurodegenerative disease, and 56.2% (9 of 16) of cases of FTLD-U with a family history.
Conclusions
Pathogenic mutations were found only in FTD-spectrum cases and not in other related neurodegenerative diseases. Haploinsufficiency of GRN is the predominant mechanism leading to FTD.
doi:10.1001/archneurol.2009.328
PMCID: PMC2901991  PMID: 20142524
17.  Expression of TMEM106B, the frontotemporal lobar degeneration-associated protein, in normal and diseased human brain 
Background
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is the second most common cause of dementia in individuals under 65 years old and manifests as alterations in behavior, personality, or language secondary to degeneration of the frontal and/or temporal lobes. FTLD-TDP, the largest neuropathological subset of FTLD, is characterized by hyperphosphorylated, ubiquitinated TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43) inclusions. Mutations in progranulin (GRN), a neuroprotective growth factor, are one of the most common Mendelian genetic causes of FTLD-TDP. Moreover, a recent genome-wide association study (GWAS) identified multiple SNPs within the uncharacterized gene TMEM106B that significantly associated with FTLD-TDP, suggesting that TMEM106B genotype confers risk for FTLD-TDP. Indeed, TMEM106B expression levels, which correlate with TMEM106B genotype, may play a role in the pathogenesis of disease.
Results
Since little is known about TMEM106B and its expression in human brain, we performed immunohistochemical studies of TMEM106B in postmortem human brain samples from normal individuals, FTLD-TDP individuals with and without GRN mutations, and individuals with other neurodegenerative diseases. We find that TMEM106B protein is cytoplasmically expressed in both histopathologically affected and unaffected areas of the brain by neurons, glia, and endothelial cells/pericytes. Furthermore, we demonstrate that TMEM106B expression may differ among neuronal subtypes. Finally, we show that TMEM106B neuronal expression is significantly more disorganized in FTLD-TDP cases with GRN mutations, compared to normal and disease controls, including FTLD-TDP cases without GRN mutations.
Conclusions
Our data provide an initial neuropathological characterization of the newly discovered FTLD-TDP-associated protein TMEM106B. In addition, we demonstrate that FTLD-TDP cases with GRN mutations exhibit a loss of neuronal TMEM106B subcellular localization, adding to evidence that TMEM106B and progranulin may be pathophysiologically linked in FTLD-TDP.
doi:10.1186/2051-5960-1-36
PMCID: PMC3893524  PMID: 24252750
TMEM106B; Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Frontotemporal dementia; TDP-43; Progranulin; FTLD-TDP
18.  Variations in the progranulin gene affect global gene expression in frontotemporal lobar degeneration 
Human Molecular Genetics  2008;17(10):1349-1362.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration is a fatal neurodegenerative disease that results in progressive decline in behavior, executive function and sometimes language. Disease mechanisms remain poorly understood. Recently, however, the DNA- and RNA-binding protein TDP-43 has been identified as the major protein present in the hallmark inclusion bodies of frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitinated inclusions (FTLD-U), suggesting a role for transcriptional dysregulation in FTLD-U pathophysiology. Using the Affymetrix U133A microarray platform, we profiled global gene expression in both histopathologically affected and unaffected areas of human FTLD-U brains. We then characterized differential gene expression with biological pathway analyses, cluster and principal component analyses, and subgroup analyses based on brain region and progranulin (GRN) gene status. Comparing 17 FTLD-U brains to 11 controls, we identified 414 upregulated and 210 downregulated genes in frontal cortex (P-value < 0.001). Moreover, cluster and principal component analyses revealed that samples with mutations or possibly pathogenic variations in the GRN gene (GRN+, 7/17) had an expression signature that was distinct from both normal controls and FTLD-U samples lacking GRN gene variations (GRN-, 10/17). Within the subgroup of GRN+ FTLD-U, we found >1300 dysregulated genes in frontal cortex (P-value < 0.001), many participating in pathways uniquely dysregulated in the GRN+ cases. Our findings demonstrate a distinct molecular phenotype for GRN+ FTLD-U, not readily apparent on clinical or histopathological examination, suggesting distinct pathophysiological mechanisms for GRN+ and GRN- subtypes of FTLD-U. In addition, these data from a large number of human brains provide a valuable resource for future testing of disease hypotheses.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddn023
PMCID: PMC2900863  PMID: 18223198
19.  Subcortical and Deep Cortical Atrophy in Frontotemporal Dementia due to Granulin Mutations 
Background/Aims
Parkinsonism is often associated with symptoms of frontotemporal dementia (FTD), but its pathogenesis has been largely neglected. In genetic inherited FTD-related granulin (GRN) mutations, parkinsonism is an early sign, and it is more common than in sporadic disorders. Our aim was to study grey matter (GM) volume changes in subcortical and deep cortical regions in GRN-related FTD.
Methods
A total of 33 FTD patients (13 carriers of the GRN mutation, GRN+, and 20 non-carriers, GRN-) and 12 healthy controls (HC) were included in the study. Each subject underwent an MRI examination (1) for voxel-based morphometry to study GM differences in cortical and subcortical regions, and (2) for a region of interest approach using a probabilistic atlas of subcortical regions (caudate nucleus, putamen, thalamus and amygdala) to assess the regional differences.
Results
The GRN+ group showed greater damage in frontotemporal regions than the GRN- group. The FTD patients had greater GM atrophy in the caudate nucleus and in the thalamus bilaterally than the HC. Damage to these subcortical and deep cortical regions was greater in the GRN+ than in the GRN- patients. Discussion: Subcortical and deep cortical involvement is a key feature of FTD, and more pronounced in GRN-related disease. Damage to the caudate region in GRN+ patients may explain the parkinsonism frequently associated since the early stages of the disease.
doi:10.1159/000355428
PMCID: PMC4036148  PMID: 24926307
Frontotemporal dementia; Granulin; Magnetic resonance imaging; Subcortical regions; Basal ganglia; Probabilistic atlases; Voxel-based morphometry

20.  Molecular Characterization of Novel Progranulin (GRN) Mutations in Frontotemporal Dementia 
Human mutation  2008;29(4):512-521.
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a clinical term encompassing dementia characterized by the presence of two major phenotypes: 1) behavioral and personality disorder, and 2) language disorder, which includes primary progressive aphasia and semantic dementia. Recently, the gene for familial frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) with ubiquitin-positive, tau-negative inclusions (FTLD-U) linked to chromosome 17 was cloned. In the present study, 62 unrelated patients from the Washington University Alzheimer's Disease Research Center and the Midwest Consortium for FTD with clinically diagnosed FTD and/or neuropathologically characterized cases of FTLD-U with or without motor neuron disease (MND) were screened for mutations in the progranulin gene (GRN; also PGRN). We discovered two pathogenic mutations in four families: 1) a single-base substitution within the 3′ splice acceptor site of intron 6/exon 7 (g.5913A>G [IVS6–2A>G]) causing skipping of exon 7 and premature termination of the coding sequence (PTC); and 2) a missense mutation in exon 1 (g.4068C>A) introducing a charged amino acid in the hydrophobic core of the signal peptide at residue 9 (p.A9D). Functional analysis in mutation carriers for the splice acceptor site mutation revealed a 50% decrease in GRN mRNA and protein levels, supporting haploinsufficiency. In contrast, there was no significant difference in the total GRN mRNA between cases and controls carrying the p.A9D mutation. Further, subcellular fractionation and confocal microscopy indicate that although the mutant protein is expressed, it is not secreted, and appears to be trapped within an intracellular compartment, possibly resulting in a functional haploinsufficiency.
doi:10.1002/humu.20681
PMCID: PMC2756561  PMID: 18183624
Frontotemporal dementia; FTD; granulin; progranulin; GRN; PGRN
21.  Novel progranulin mutations with reduced serum-progranulin levels in frontotemporal lobar degeneration 
European Journal of Human Genetics  2013;21(11):1260-1265.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease with an age at onset generally below 65 years. Mutations in progranulin (GRN) have been reported to be able to cause FTLD through haploinsufficiency. We have sequenced GRN in 121 patients with FTLD and detected six different mutations in eight patients: p.Gly35Glufs*19, p.Asn118Phefs*4, p.Val200Glyfs*18, p.Tyr294*, p.Cys404* and p.Cys416Leufs*30. Serum was available for five of the mutations, where the serum-GRN levels were found to be >50% reduced compared with FTLD patients without GRN mutations. Moreover, the p.Cys416Leufs*30 mutation segregated in an affected family with different dementia diagnoses. The mutation frequency of GRN mutation was 6.6% in our FTLD cohort.
doi:10.1038/ejhg.2013.37
PMCID: PMC3798842  PMID: 23463024
GRN; FTLD; progranulin ELISA
22.  Anterior brain glucose hypometabolism predates dementia in progranulin mutation carriers 
Neurology  2013;81(15):1322-1331.
Objective:
In this prospective cohort study, we investigated cerebral glucose metabolism reductions on [18F]-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)-PET in progranulin (GRN) mutation carriers prior to frontotemporal dementia (FTD) onset.
Methods:
Nine mutation carriers (age 51.5 ± 13.5 years) and 11 noncarriers (age 52.7 ± 9.5 years) from 5 families with FTD due to GRN mutations underwent brain scanning with FDG-PET and MRI and clinical evaluation. Normalized FDG uptake values were calculated with reference to the pons. PET images were analyzed with regions of interest (ROI) and statistical parametric mapping (SPM) approaches.
Results:
Compared with noncarriers, GRN mutation carriers had a lowered anterior-to-posterior (AP) ratio of FDG uptake (0.86 ± 0.09 vs 0.92 ± 0.05) and less left-right asymmetry, consistent with an overall pattern of right anterior cerebral hypometabolism. This pattern was observed regardless of whether they were deemed clinically symptomatic no dementia or asymptomatic. Individual ROIs with lowered FDG uptake included right anterior cingulate, insula, and gyrus rectus. SPM analysis supported and extended these findings, demonstrating abnormalities in the right and left medial frontal regions, right insular cortex, right precentral and middle frontal gyri, and right cerebellum. Right AP ratio was correlated with cognitive and clinical scores (modified Mini-Mental State Examination r = 0.74; Functional Rating Scale r = −0.73) but not age and years to estimated onset in mutation carriers.
Conclusion:
The frontotemporal lobar degenerative process associated with GRN mutations appears to begin many years prior to the average age at FTD onset (late 50s–early 60s). Right medial and ventral frontal cortex and insula may be affected in this process but the specific regional patterns associated with specific clinical variants remain to be elucidated.
doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182a8237e
PMCID: PMC3806924  PMID: 24005336
23.  Dissociation of Frontotemporal Dementia–Related Deficits and Neuroinflammation in Progranulin Haploinsufficient Mice 
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a neurodegenerative disease with hallmark deficits in social and emotional function. Heterozygous loss-of-function mutations in GRN, the progranulin gene, are a common genetic cause of the disorder, but the mechanisms by which progranulin haploinsufficiency causes neuronal dysfunction in FTD are unclear. Homozygous progranulin knockout (Grn−/−) mice have been studied as a model of this disorder and show behavioral deficits and a neuroinflammatory phenotype with robust microglial activation. However, homozygous GRN mutations causing complete progranulin deficiency were recently shown to cause a different neurological disorder, neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis, suggesting that the total absence of progranulin may have effects distinct from those of haploinsufficiency. Here, we studied progranulin heterozygous (Grn+/−) mice, which model progranulin haploinsufficiency. We found that Grn+/− mice developed age-dependent social and emotional deficits potentially relevant to FTD. However, unlike Grn−/− mice, behavioral deficits in Grn+/− mice occurred in the absence of gliosis or increased expression of tumor necrosis factor–α. Instead, we found neuronal abnormalities in the amygdala, an area of selective vulnerability in FTD, in Grn+/− mice. Our findings indicate that FTD-related deficits due to progranulin haploinsufficiency can develop in the absence of detectable gliosis and neuroinflammation, thereby dissociating microglial activation from functional deficits and suggesting an important effect of progranulin deficiency on neurons.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.6103-11.2013
PMCID: PMC3740510  PMID: 23516300
24.  C9ORF72 repeat expansions and other FTD gene mutations in a clinical AD patient series from Mayo Clinic 
Alzheimer disease (AD) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) are two frequent forms of primary neurodegenerative dementias with overlapping clinical symptoms. Pathogenic mutations of the amyloid precursor protein (APP) and presenilins 1 and 2 (PSEN1, PSEN2) genes have been linked to familial early-onset forms of AD; however, more recently mutations in the common FTD genes encoding the microtubule associated protein tau (MAPT), progranulin (GRN) and C9ORF72, have also been reported in clinically diagnosed AD patients. To access the contribution of mutations in a well-characterized series of patients, we systematically performed genetic analyses of these EOAD and FTD genes in a novel cohort of 227 unrelated probands clinically diagnosed as probable AD which were ascertained at Mayo Clinic Florida between 1997 and 2011. All patients showed first symptoms of dementia before 70 years. We identified 9 different pathogenic mutations in the EOAD genes in a total of 11 patients explaining 4.8% of the patient population. Two mutations were novel: PSEN1 p.Pro218Leu and PSEN2 p.Phe183Ser. Importantly, mutations were also identified in all FTD genes: one patient carried a MAPT p.R406W mutation, one patient carried the p.Arg198Glyfs19X loss-of-function mutation in GRN and two patients were found to carry expanded GGGGCC repeats in the non-coding region of C9ORF72. Together the FTD genes explained the disease in 1.8% of our probable AD population. The identification of mutations in all major FTD genes in this novel cohort of clinically diagnosed AD patients underlines the challenges associated with the differential diagnosis of AD and FTD resulting from overlapping symptomatology and has important implications for molecular diagnostic testing and genetic counseling of clinically diagnosed AD patients. Our findings suggest that in clinically diagnosed AD patients, genetic analyses should include not only the well-established EOAD genes APP, PSEN1 and PSEN2 but also genes that are usually associated with FTD. Finally, the overall low frequency of mutation carriers observed in our study (6.6%) suggests the involvement of other as yet unknown genetic factors associated with AD.
PMCID: PMC3560455  PMID: 23383383
Alzheimer’s disease; frontotemporal dementia; amyloid precursor protein; presenilin 1; presenilin 2; progranulin; microtubule associated protein tau; C9ORF72; mutation; diagnosis.
25.  rs5848 Polymorphism and Serum Progranulin Level 
Objective
To assess the influence of rs5848 polymorphism in serum progranulin (PGRN) level in a cohort of subjects with Alzheimer and related dementias from a tertiary referral clinic.
Background
Mutations in the GRN gene cause autosomal dominant frontotemporal dementia (FTD) with TDP-43 pathology (FTLD-TDP) through haploinsufficiency. It has recently been shown that homozygous carriers of the T-allele of rs5848 have an elevated risk developing FTD, and this polymorphism may play a role in the pathogenesis of other dementia by modifying progranulin level. We hypothesize that genotype of rs5848 may influence serum PGRN level in AD, FTD, and other dementias.
Methods
Blood samples were obtained from patients with cognitive impairment and dementia referred to a tertiary dementia clinic, as well as samples from a cohort of healthy controls. Serum PGRN level was measured using an ELISA assay, and rs5848 genotype was determined by a TaqMan assay.
Results
We found that rs5848 SNP significantly influenced serum PGRN level, with TT genotype having the lowest levels, CC the highest. This relationship is observed in each of the subgroups. We also confirmed that GRN mutation carriers had significantly lower serum PGRN levels than all other groups.
Conclusions
The rs5848 polymorphism significantly influences serum PGRN with TT carriers having a lower level of serum PGRN then CT and CC carriers. This is consistent with the finding that miR-659 binding to the high risk T allele of rs5848 may augment translational inhibition of GRN and alter risk of FTD and possibly other dementias.
doi:10.1016/j.jns.2010.10.009
PMCID: PMC3085023  PMID: 21047645
Frontotemporal Dementia; Progranulin; PGRN; GRN; rs5848; genetic polymorphism; biomarker

Results 1-25 (1398223)