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.
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.
GRN+ FTLD-TDP differs in key features from GRN− FTLD-TDP.
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.
Progranulin; haploinsufficiency; cut-off; blood; CSF; expression; frontotemporal; dementia; GRN; modulator
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.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is a common neurodegenerative disorder that predominantly affects individuals under the age of 65. It is known that the most common pathological subtype is FTLD with TAR DNA-binding protein 43 inclusions (FTLD-TDP). FTLD has a strong genetic component with about 50% of cases having a positive family history. Mutations identified in the progranulin gene (GRN) have been shown to cause FTLD-TDP as a result of progranulin haploinsufficiency. These findings suggest a progranulin-dependent mechanism in this pathological FTLD subtype. Thus, identifying regulators of progranulin levels is essential for new therapies and treatments for FTLD and related disorders. In this review, we discuss the role of genetic studies in identifying progranulin regulators, beginning with the discovery of pathogenic GRN mutations and additional GRN risk variants. We also cover more recent genetic advances, including the detection of variants in the transmembrane protein 106 B gene that increase FTLD-TDP risk presumably by modulating progranulin levels and the identification of a potential progranulin receptor, sortilin. This review highlights the importance of genetic studies in the context of FTLD and further emphasizes the need for future genetic and cell biology research to continue the effort in finding a cure for progranulin-related diseases.
progranulin; genetics; FTLD; TDP-43; TMEM106B; sortilin
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Progranulin; TDP-43; Frontotemporal dementia; Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Microglia
Hippocampal sclerosis (HpScl) is common in elderly subjects with dementia, either alone or accompanied by other pathologic processes. It is also found in >70% of frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43 immunoreactive inclusions (FTLD-TDP). TDP-43 inclusions are detected in >20% of Alzheimer disease (AD) and >70% of HpScl cases. The most common cause of FTLD-TDP is mutation in the progranulin gene (GRN). Recently, a common genetic variant in the 3′ untranslated region (3′UTR) of GRN (rs5848; c.*78C>T) located in a microRNA binding site regulated progranulin expression, and the T-allele was increased in FTLD-TDP compared to controls.
The goal of this study was to determine if the 3′UTR variant in GRN was associated with TDP-43 immunoreactivity in AD with and without HpScl.
644 cases of pathologically confirmed AD, including 57 with HpScl, were screened for TDP-43 immunoreactivity and were genotyped at the GRN 3′UTR single-nucleotide polymorphism rs5848 using previously published methods.
There was a trend (p = 0.06) for TDP-43 immunoreactivity, but a very significant (p = 0.005) association of HpScl with the variant, with 72% of AD with HpScl carrying a T-allele, compared to 51% of AD without HpScl carrying a T-allele.
The results suggest that a genetic variant in GRN leading to decreased levels of progranulin may be a risk factor for HpScl in AD, while its role in TDP-43 immunoreactivity in AD remains less certain.
Alzheimer's disease; Hippocampal sclerosis; Immunohistochemistry; Progranulin gene
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.
Frontotemporal dementia; FTD; granulin; progranulin; GRN; PGRN
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.
To delineate the range of clinical presentations associated with GRN mutations and to define pathogenic candidacy of rare GRN variants.
Clinical and neuropathology dementia research studies at 8 academic centers.
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.
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.
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.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is a devastating neurodegenerative disease that is the second most common form of dementia affecting individuals under age 65. The most common pathological subtype, FTLD with transactive response DNA-binding protein with a molecular weight of 43 kDa inclusions (FTLD-TDP), is often caused by autosomal dominant mutations in the progranulin gene (GRN) encoding the progranulin protein (PGRN). GRN pathogenic mutations result in haploinsufficiency, usually by nonsense-mediated decay of the mRNA. Since the discovery of these mutations in 2006, several groups have published data and animal models that provide further insight into the genetic and functional relevance of PGRN in the context of FTLD-TDP. These studies were critical in initiating our understanding of the role of PGRN in neural development, degeneration, synaptic transmission, cell signaling, and behavior. Furthermore, recent publications have now identified the receptors for PGRN, which will hopefully lead to additional therapeutic targets. Additionally, drug screens have been conducted to identify pharmacological regulators of PGRN levels to be used as potential treatments for PGRN haploinsufficiency. Here we review recent literature describing relevant data on GRN genetics, cell culture experiments describing the potential role and regulators of PGRN in the central nervous system, animal models of PGRN deficiency, and potential PGRN-related FTLD therapies that are currently underway. The present review aims to underscore the necessity of further elucidation of PGRN biology in FTLD-related neurodegeneration.
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.
progranulin; granulin; FTD; elastase; neurite outgrowth; neuronal survival
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.
FTLD; ALS; Progranulin; TDP-43; Signaling; Transgenic mouse model; Pathogenesis
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.
Alzheimer's Disease (AD); Progranulin (GRN); Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP); Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF); Peripheral Mononuclear Cells (PBMC)
Progranulin (PGRN) encoded by the GRN gene, is a secreted glycoprotein growth factor that has been implicated in many physiological and pathophysiological processes. PGRN haploinsufficiency caused by autosomal dominant mutations within the GRN gene leads to progressive neuronal atrophy in the form of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). This form of the disease is associated with neuronal inclusions that bear the ubiquitinated TAR DNA Binding Protein-43 (TDP-43) molecular signature (FTLD-U). The neurotrophic properties of PGRN in vitro have recently been reported but the role of PGRN in neurons is not well understood. Here we document the neuronal expression and functions of PGRN in spinal cord motoneuron (MN) maturation and branching in vivo using zebrafish, a well established model of vertebrate embryonic development.
Whole-mount in situ hybridization and immunohistochemical analyses of zebrafish embryos revealed that zfPGRN-A is expressed within the peripheral and central nervous systems including the caudal primary (CaP) MNs within the spinal cord. Knockdown of zfPGRN-A mRNA translation mediated by antisense morpholino oligonucleotides disrupted normal CaP MN development resulting in both truncated MNs and inappropriate early branching. Ectopic over-expression of zfPGRN-A mRNA resulted in increased MN branching and rescued the truncation defects brought about by knockdown of zfPGRN-A expression. The ability of PGRN to interact with established MN developmental pathways was tested. PGRN over-expression was found to reverse the truncation defect resulting from knockdown of Survival of motor neuron 1 (smn1). This is involved in small ribonucleoprotein biogenesis RNA processing, mutations of which cause Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) in humans. It did not reverse the MN defects caused by interfering with the neuronal guidance pathway by knockdown of expression of NRP-1, a semaphorin co-receptor.
Expression of PGRN within MNs and the observed phenotypes resulting from mRNA knockdown and over-expression are consistent with a role in the regulation of spinal cord MN development and branching. This study presents the first in vivo demonstration of the neurotrophic properties of PGRN and suggests possible future therapeutic applications in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.
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.
Rs1990622 was genotyped in GRN mutation carriers and tested for association with AAO using the Kaplan-Meier and a Cox proportional hazards model.
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.
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.
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.
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is typified by behavioral and cognitive changes manifested as altered social comportment and impaired memory performance. To investigate the neurodegenerative consequences of progranulin gene (GRN) mutations, which cause an inherited form of FTD, we used previously generated progranulin knockout mice (Grn-/-). Specifically, we characterized two cohorts of early and later middle-age wild type and knockout mice using a battery of tests to assess neurological integrity and behavioral phenotypes analogous to FTD. The Grn-/- mice exhibited reduced social engagement and learning and memory deficits. Immunohistochemical approaches were used to demonstrate the presence of lesions characteristic of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) with GRN mutation including ubiquitination, microgliosis, and reactive astrocytosis, the pathological substrate of FTD. Importantly, Grn-/- mice also have decreased overall survival compared to Grn+/+ mice. These data suggest that the Grn-/- mouse reproduces some core features of FTD with respect to behavior, pathology, and survival. This murine model may serve as a valuable in vivo model of FTLD with GRN mutation through which molecular mechanisms underlying the disease can be further dissected.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; frontotemporal dementia; knockout mouse; neurodegeneration; social behavior; memory; ubiquitin; progranulin
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.
Major discoveries have been made in the recent past in the genetics, biochemistry and neuropathology of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43), encoded by the TARDBP gene, has been identified as the major pathological protein of FTLD with ubiquitin-immunoreactive (ub-ir) inclusions (FTLD-U) with or without amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and sporadic ALS. Recently, mutations in the TARDBP gene in familial and sporadic ALS have been reported which demonstrate that abnormal TDP-43 alone is sufficient to cause neurodegeneration. Several familial cases of FTLD-U, however, are now known to have mutations in the progranulin (GRN) gene, but granulin is not a component of the TDP-43- and ub-ir inclusions. Further, TDP-43 is found to be a component of the inclusions of an increasing number of neurodegenerative diseases. Other FTLD-U entities with TDP-43 proteinopathy include: FTLD-U with valosin-containing protein (VCP) gene mutation and FTLD with ALS linked to chromosome 9p. In contrast, chromosome 3-linked dementia, FTLD-U with chromatin modifying protein 2B (CHMP2B) mutation, has ub-ir, TDP-43-negative inclusions. In summary, recent discoveries have generated new insights into the pathogenesis of a spectrum of disorders called TDP-43 proteinopathies including: FTLD-U, FTLD-U with ALS, ALS, and a broadening spectrum of other disorders. It is anticipated that these discoveries and a revised nosology of FTLD will contribute toward an accurate diagnosis, and facilitate the development of new diagnostic tests and therapeutics.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; frontotemporal dementia; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; granulin; motor neuron disease; TARDBP; TDP-43; ubiquitin; valosin-containing protein
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), a neurodegenerative disease primarily affecting the frontal and temporal lobes, is one of the most common types of dementia. While the majority of FTLD cases are sporadic, approximately 10–40% of patients have an inherited form of FTLD. Mutations in the progranulin gene (GRN) have recently been identified as a major cause of FTLD with ubiquitin positive inclusions (FTLD-U). Because over 70 disease-linked GRN mutations cause abnormal deficiencies in the production of PGRN, a protein that plays a crucial role in embryogenesis, cell growth and survival, as well as wound repair and inflammation, researchers now aim to design therapies that would increase PGRN levels in affected individuals, thereby alleviating the symptoms associated with disease. Several compounds and genetic factors, as well as PGRN receptors, have recently been identified because of their ability to regulate PGRN levels. Strict quality control measures are needed given that extreme PGRN levels at either end of the spectrum – too low or too high – can lead to neurodegeneration or cancer, respectively. The aim of this review is to highlight what is known regarding PGRN biology; to improve understanding of the mechanisms involved in regulating PGRN levels and highlight studies that are laying the groundwork for the development of effective therapeutic modulators of PGRN.
Progranulin; neurodegeneration; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; dementia; neurotrophic factors; sortilin
TAR DNA-binding protein of 43 kDa (TDP-43) is a major component of the pathological inclusions of frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43 proteinopathy, also called FTLD with ubiquitin-positive, tau-negative inclusions (FTLD-U), and motor neuron disease (MND). TDP-43 is predominantly expressed in the nucleus and regulates gene expression and splicing. In FTLD with TDP-43 proteinopathy, neuronal inclusions present variably as cytoplasmic inclusions (NCIs), dystrophic neurites (DNs), and intranuclear inclusions (NIIs), leading to a fourfold neuropathological classification correlating with genotype. There have been few fine structural studies of these inclusions. Thus, we undertook an immunoelectron microscopic study of FTLD with TDP-43 proteinopathy, including sporadic and familial cases with progranulin (GRN) mutation. TDP-43-immunoreactive inclusions comprised two components: granular and filamentous. Filament widths, expressed as mean (range) were: NCI, 9 nm (4–16 nm); DN, 10 nm (5–16 nm); NII, 18 nm (9–50 nm). Morphologically distinct inclusion components may reflect the process of TDP-43 aggregation and interaction with other proteins: determining these latter may contribute towards understanding the heterogeneous pathogenesis of FTLD with TDP-43 proteinopathy.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Ubiquitin; TDP-43; TARDBP; Progranulin; Immunoelectron microscopy
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is the second most common cause of presenile dementia. The predominant neuropathology is FTLD with TAR DNA binding protein (TDP-43) inclusions (FTLD-TDP)1. FTLD-TDP is frequently familial resulting from progranulin (GRN) mutations. We assembled an international collaboration to identify susceptibility loci for FTLD-TDP, using genome-wide association (GWA). We found that FTLD-TDP associates with multiple SNPs mapping to a single linkage disequilibrium (LD) block on 7p21 that contains TMEM106B in a GWA study (GWAS) on 515 FTLD-TDP cases. Three SNPs retained genome-wide significance following Bonferroni correction; top SNP rs1990622 (P=1.08×10−11; odds ratio (OR) minor allele (C) 0.61, 95% CI 0.53-0.71). The association replicated in 89 FTLD-TDP cases (rs1990622; P=2×10−4). TMEM106B variants may confer risk by increasing TMEM106B expression. TMEM106B variants also contribute to genetic risk for FTLD-TDP in patients with GRN mutations. Our data implicate TMEM106B as a strong risk factor for FTLD-TDP suggesting an underlying pathogenic mechanism.
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.
frontotemporal lobar degeneration; frontotemporal dementia; progranulin; progressive aphasia
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Frontotemporal Dementia; Progranulin; PGRN; GRN; rs5848; genetic polymorphism; biomarker
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.
Neurodegeneration; FTD; Progranulin; Granulins; Cellular model; Animal model; Growth factor; Therapy
Frontotemporal lobar dementia (FTLD) is the most common cause of dementia in patients younger than 60 years of age, and causes progressive neurodegeneration of the frontal and temporal lobes usually accompanied by devastating changes in language or behavior in affected individuals. Mutations in the progranulin (GRN) gene account for a significant fraction of familial FTLD, and in the vast majority of cases, these mutations lead to reduced expression of progranulin via nonsense-mediated mRNA decay. Progranulin is a secreted glycoprotein that regulates a diverse range of cellular functions including cell proliferation, cell migration, and inflammation. Recent fundamental discoveries about progranulin biology, including the findings that sortilin and tumor necrosis factor receptor (TNFR) are high affinity progranulin receptors, are beginning to shed light on the mechanism(s) by which progranulin deficiency causes FTLD. This review will explore how alterations in basic cellular functions due to PGRN deficiency, both intrinsic and extrinsic to neurons, might lead to the development of FTLD.
Progranulin; Frontotemporal lobar dementia; Sortilin; Tumor necrosis factor receptor; TDP-43; Neuroinflammation