Two studies recently identified a GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat expansion in a non-coding region of the chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 gene (C9ORF72) as the cause of chromosome 9p-linked amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). In a cohort of 231 probands with ALS, we identified the C9ORF72 mutation in 17 familial (27.4 %) and six sporadic (3.6%) cases. Patients with the mutation presented with typical motor features of ALS, although subjects with the C9ORF72 mutation had more frequent bulbar onset, compared to those without this mutation. Dementia was significantly more common in ALS patients and families with the C9ORF72 mutation and was usually early-onset FTD. There was striking clinical heterogeneity among the members of individual families with the mutation. The associated neuropathology was a combination of ALS with TDP-ir inclusions and FTLD-TDP. In addition to TDP-43-immunoreactive pathology, a consistent and specific feature of cases with the C9ORF72 mutation was the presence of ubiquitin-positive, TDP-43-negative inclusions in a variety of neuroanatomical regions, such as the cerebellar cortex. These findings support the C9ORF72 mutation as an important newly-recognized cause of ALS, provide a more detailed characterization of the associated clinical and pathological features and further demonstrate the clinical and molecular overlap between ALS and FTD.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; frontotemporal dementia; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; C9ORF72; TDP-43; chromosome 9p
Several families have been reported with autosomal dominant frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), genetically linked to chromosome 9p21. Here we report an expansion of a non-coding GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat in the gene C9ORF72 that is strongly associated with disease in a large FTD/ALS kindred, previously reported to be conclusively linked to chromosome 9p. This same repeat expansion was identified in the majority of our families with a combined FTD/ALS phenotype and TDP-43 based pathology. Analysis of extended clinical series found the C9ORF72 repeat expansion to be the most common genetic abnormality in both familial FTD (11.7%) and familial ALS (22.5%). The repeat expansion leads to the loss of one alternatively spliced C9ORF72 transcript and to formation of nuclear RNA foci, suggesting multiple disease mechanisms. Our findings indicate that repeat expansion in C9ORF72 is a major cause of both FTD and ALS.
Numerous kindreds with familial frontotemporal dementia or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or both have been linked to chromosome 9 (c9FTD/ALS), and an expansion of the GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat in the non-coding region of chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72) was identified in the summer of 2011 as the pathogenic mechanism. An avalanche of papers on this disorder is in progress, and a relatively distinctive phenotype is taking form. In this review, we present an illustrative case and summarize the demographic, inheritance, clinical, and behavioral aspects and presumed pathologic underpinnings of c9FTD/ALS on the basis of the available data on more than 250 patients with frontotemporal lobar degeneration syndromes, parkinsonism, or ALS or a combination of these disorders.
Frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis are closely related clinical syndromes with overlapping molecular pathogenesis. Several families have been reported with members affected by frontotemporal dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or both, which show genetic linkage to a region on chromosome 9p21. Recently, two studies identified the FTD/ALS gene defect on chromosome 9p as an expanded GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat in a non-coding region of the chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 gene (C9ORF72). In the present study, we provide detailed analysis of the clinical features and neuropathology for 16 unrelated families with frontotemporal dementia caused by the C9ORF72 mutation. All had an autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance. Eight families had a combination of frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis while the other eight had a pure frontotemporal dementia phenotype. Clinical information was available for 30 affected members of the 16 families. There was wide variation in age of onset (mean = 54.3, range = 34–74 years) and disease duration (mean = 5.3, range = 1–16 years). Early diagnoses included behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia (n = 15), progressive non-fluent aphasia (n = 5), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (n = 9) and progressive non-fluent aphasia–amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (n = 1). Heterogeneity in clinical presentation was also common within families. However, there was a tendency for the phenotypes to converge with disease progression; seven subjects had final clinical diagnoses of both frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and all of those with an initial progressive non-fluent aphasia diagnosis subsequently developed significant behavioural abnormalities. Twenty-one affected family members came to autopsy and all were found to have transactive response DNA binding protein with Mr 43 kD (TDP-43) pathology in a wide neuroanatomical distribution. All had involvement of the extramotor neocortex and hippocampus (frontotemporal lobar degeneration-TDP) and all but one case (clinically pure frontotemporal dementia) had involvement of lower motor neurons, characteristic of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. In addition, a consistent and relatively specific pathological finding was the presence of neuronal inclusions in the cerebellar cortex that were ubiquitin/p62-positive but TDP-43-negative. Our findings indicate that the C9ORF72 mutation is a major cause of familial frontotemporal dementia with TDP-43 pathology, that likely accounts for the majority of families with combined frontotemporal dementia/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis presentation, and further support the concept that frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis represent a clinicopathological spectrum of disease with overlapping molecular pathogenesis.
frontotemporal dementia; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; C9ORF72, TDP-43
A large hexanucleotide (GGGGCC) repeat expansion in the first intron of C9ORF72, a gene located on chromosome 9p21, has been recently reported to be responsible for ∼40% of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases of European ancestry. The aim of the current article was to describe the phenotype of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases carrying the expansion by providing a detailed clinical description of affected cases from representative multi-generational kindreds, and by analysing the age of onset, gender ratio and survival in a large cohort of patients with familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. We collected DNA and analysed phenotype data for 141 index Italian familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases (21 of Sardinian ancestry) and 41 German index familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases. Pathogenic repeat expansions were detected in 45 (37.5%) patients from mainland Italy, 12 (57.1%) patients of Sardinian ancestry and nine (22.0%) of the 41 German index familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases. The disease was maternally transmitted in 27 (49.1%) pedigrees and paternally transmitted in 28 (50.9%) pedigrees (P = non-significant). On average, children developed disease 7.0 years earlier than their parents [children: 55.8 years (standard deviation 7.9), parents: 62.8 (standard deviation 10.9); P = 0.003]. Parental phenotype influenced the type of clinical symptoms manifested by the child: of the 13 cases where the affected parent had an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis–frontotemporal dementia or frontotemporal dementia, the affected child also developed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis–frontotemporal dementia in nine cases. When compared with patients carrying mutations of other amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-related genes, those with C9ORF72 expansion had commonly a bulbar onset (42.2% compared with 25.0% among non-C9ORF72 expansion cases, P = 0.03) and cognitive impairment (46.7% compared with 9.1% among non-C9ORF72 expansion cases, P = 0.0001). Median survival from symptom onset among cases carrying C9ORF72 repeat expansion was 3.2 years lower than that of patients carrying TARDBP mutations (5.0 years; 95% confidence interval: 3.6–7.2) and longer than those with FUS mutations (1.9 years; 95% confidence interval: 1.7–2.1). We conclude that C9ORF72 hexanucleotide repeat expansions were the most frequent mutation in our large cohort of patients with familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis of Italian, Sardinian and German ancestry. Together with mutation of SOD1, TARDBP and FUS, mutations of C9ORF72 account for ∼60% of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in Italy. Patients with C9ORF72 hexanucleotide repeat expansions present some phenotypic differences compared with patients with mutations of other genes or with unknown mutations, namely a high incidence of bulbar-onset disease and comorbidity with frontotemporal dementia. Their pedigrees typically display a high frequency of cases with pure frontotemporal dementia, widening the concept of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; familial ALS, C9ORF72 gene; phenotype–genotype correlation
Intronic expansion of the GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat within the C9ORF72 gene causes frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/motor neuron disease in both familial and sporadic cases. Initial reports indicate that this variant within the frontotemporal dementia/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis spectrum is associated with transactive response DNA binding protein (TDP-43) proteinopathy. The amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/motor neuron disease phenotype is not yet well characterized. We report the clinical and pathological phenotypes associated with pathogenic C9ORF72 mutations in a cohort of 563 cases from Northern England, including 63 with a family history of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. One hundred and fifty-eight cases from the cohort (21 familial, 137 sporadic) were post-mortem brain and spinal cord donors. We screened DNA for the C9ORF72 mutation, reviewed clinical case histories and undertook pathological evaluation of brain and spinal cord. Control DNA samples (n = 361) from the same population were also screened. The C9ORF72 intronic expansion was present in 62 cases [11% of the cohort; 27/63 (43%) familial, 35/500 (7%) cases with sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/motor neuron disease]. Disease duration was significantly shorter in cases with C9ORF72-related amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (30.5 months) compared with non-C9ORF72 amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/motor neuron disease (36.3 months, P < 0.05). C9ORF72 cases included both limb and bulbar onset disease and all cases showed combined upper and lower motor neuron degeneration (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Thus, clinically, C9ORF72 cases show the features of a relatively rapidly progressive, but otherwise typical, variant of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis associated with both familial and sporadic presentations. Dementia was present in the patient or a close family member in 22/62 cases with C9ORF72 mutation (35%) based on diagnoses established from retrospective clinical case note review that may underestimate significant cognitive changes in late disease. All the C9ORF72 mutation cases showed classical amyotrophic lateral sclerosis pathology with TDP-43 inclusions in spinal motor neurons. Neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions and glial inclusions positive for p62 immunostaining in non-motor regions were strongly over-represented in the C9ORF72 cases. Extra-motor pathology in the frontal cortex (P < 0.0005) and the hippocampal CA4 subfield neurons (P < 0.0005) discriminated C9ORF72 cases strongly from the rest of the cohort. Inclusions in CA4 neurons were not present in non-C9ORF72 cases, indicating that this pathology predicts mutation status.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; C9ORF72; dementia; neurodegeneration
The chromosome 9p21 amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-frontotemporal dementia (ALS-FTD) locus contains one of the last major unidentified autosomal dominant genes underlying these common neurodegenerative diseases. We have previously shown that a founder haplotype, covering the MOBKL2b, IFNK and C9ORF72 genes, is present in the majority of cases linked to this region. Here we show that there is a large hexanucleotide (GGGGCC) repeat expansion in the first intron of C9ORF72 on the affected haplotype. This repeat expansion segregates perfectly with disease in the Finnish population, underlying 46.0% of familial ALS and 21.1% of sporadic ALS in that population. Taken together with the D90A SOD1 mutation, 87% of familial ALS in Finland is now explained by a simple monogenic cause. The repeat expansion is also present in one third of familial ALS cases of outbred European descent making it the most common genetic cause of these fatal neurodegenerative diseases identified to date.
A major recent discovery was the identification of an expansion of a non-coding GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat in the C9ORF72 gene in patients with frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Mutations in two other genes are known to account for familial frontotemporal dementia: microtubule-associated protein tau and progranulin. Although imaging features have been previously reported in subjects with mutations in tau and progranulin, no imaging features have been published in C9ORF72. Furthermore, it remains unknown whether there are differences in atrophy patterns across these mutations, and whether regional differences could help differentiate C9ORF72 from the other two mutations at the single-subject level. We aimed to determine the regional pattern of brain atrophy associated with the C9ORF72 gene mutation, and to determine which regions best differentiate C9ORF72 from subjects with mutations in tau and progranulin, and from sporadic frontotemporal dementia. A total of 76 subjects, including 56 with a clinical diagnosis of behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia and a mutation in one of these genes (19 with C9ORF72 mutations, 25 with tau mutations and 12 with progranulin mutations) and 20 sporadic subjects with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia (including 50% with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), with magnetic resonance imaging were included in this study. Voxel-based morphometry was used to assess and compare patterns of grey matter atrophy. Atlas-based parcellation was performed utilizing the automated anatomical labelling atlas and Statistical Parametric Mapping software to compute volumes of 37 regions of interest. Hemispheric asymmetry was calculated. Penalized multinomial logistic regression was utilized to create a prediction model to discriminate among groups using regional volumes and asymmetry score. Principal component analysis assessed for variance within groups. C9ORF72 was associated with symmetric atrophy predominantly involving dorsolateral, medial and orbitofrontal lobes, with additional loss in anterior temporal lobes, parietal lobes, occipital lobes and cerebellum. In contrast, striking anteromedial temporal atrophy was associated with tau mutations and temporoparietal atrophy was associated with progranulin mutations. The sporadic group was associated with frontal and anterior temporal atrophy. A conservative penalized multinomial logistic regression model identified 14 variables that could accurately classify subjects, including frontal, temporal, parietal, occipital and cerebellum volume. The principal component analysis revealed similar degrees of heterogeneity within all disease groups. Patterns of atrophy therefore differed across subjects with C9ORF72, tau and progranulin mutations and sporadic frontotemporal dementia. Our analysis suggested that imaging has the potential to be useful to help differentiate C9ORF72 from these other groups at the single-subject level.
frontotemporal dementia; magnetic resonance imaging; C9ORF72; tau; progranulin
Chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9orf72) is an evolutionarily conserved protein with unknown function, expressed at high levels in the brain. An expanded hexanucleotide GGGGCC repeat located in the first intron of the C9orf72 gene represents the most common genetic cause of familial frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Previous studies by immunohistochemistry with two different anti-C9orf72 antibodies named sc-138763 and HPA023873 showed that C9orf72 is expressed chiefly in the cytoplasm of neurons, and is concentrated in the synaptic terminals in the brains of FTD/ALS with or without C9orf72 repeat expansion as well as those of controls. At present, a pathological role of C9orf72 in the process of neurodegeneration remains unknown.
Using immunohistochemistry we studied C9orf72 expression in the frontal cortex and the hippocampus of six Alzheimer's disease (AD) and 13 control cases, including ALS, Parkinson's disease, multiple system atrophy, and non-neurological cases.
The HPA023873 antibody showed a cross-reactivity to glial fibrillary acidic protein, and therefore stained intensely reactive astrocytes in AD and non-AD brains. Both sc-138763 and HPA023873 antibodies labeled the neuronal cytoplasm and the neuropil with variable intensities, and intensely stained a cluster of p62-negative, UBQLN1-positive swollen neurites, which were distributed in the CA1 region and the molecular layer in the hippocampus of both AD and non-AD brains. Most notably, both of these antibodies reacted strongly with dystrophic neurites accumulated on senile plaques in AD brains.
These results suggest a general role of C9orf72 in the process of neurodegeneration in a range of human neurodegenerative diseases.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease of upper and lower motor neurons, associated with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) in about 14% of incident cases. We assessed the frequency of the recently identified C9orf72 repeat expansion in familial and apparently sporadic cases of ALS and characterised the cognitive and clinical phenotype of patients with this expansion.
A population-based register of patients with ALS has been in operation in Ireland since 1995, and an associated DNA bank has been in place since 1999. 435 representative DNA samples from the bank were screened using repeat-primed PCR for the presence of a GGGGCC repeat expansion in C9orf72. We assessed clinical, cognitive, behavioural, MRI, and survival data from 191 (44%) of these patients, who comprised a population-based incident group and had previously participated in a longitudinal study of cognitive and behavioural changes in ALS.
Samples from the DNA bank included 49 cases of known familial ALS and 386 apparently sporadic cases. Of these samples, 20 (41%) cases of familial ALS and 19 (5%) cases of apparently sporadic ALS had the C9orf72 repeat expansion. Of the 191 patients for whom phenotype data were available, 21 (11%) had the repeat expansion. Age at disease onset was lower in patients with the repeat expansion (mean 56·3 [SD 8·3] years) than in those without (61·3 [10·6] years; p=0·043). A family history of ALS or FTD was present in 18 (86%) of those with the repeat expansion. Patients with the repeat expansion had significantly more co-morbid FTD than patients without the repeat (50% vs 12%), and a distinct pattern of non-motor cortex changes on high-resolution 3 T magnetic resonance structural neuroimaging. Age-matched univariate analysis showed shorter survival (20 months vs 26 months) in patients with the repeat expansion. Multivariable analysis showed an increased hazard rate of 1·9 (95% 1·1–3·7; p=0·035) in those patients with the repeat expansion compared with patients without the expansion
Patients with ALS and the C9orf72 repeat expansion seem to present a recognisable phenotype characterised by earlier disease onset, the presence of cognitive and behavioural impairment, specific neuroimaging changes, a family history of neurodegeneration with autosomal dominant inheritance, and reduced survival. Recognition of patients with ALS who carry an expanded repeat is likely to be important in the context of appropriate disease management, stratification in clinical trials, and in recognition of other related phenotypes in family members.
Health Seventh Framework Programme, Health Research Board, Research Motor Neuron, Irish Motor Neuron Disease Association, The Motor Neurone Disease Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, ALS Association.
Large expansions of a non-coding GGGGCC-repeat in the first intron of the C9orf72 gene are a common cause of both amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). G-rich sequences have a propensity for forming highly stable quadruplex structures in both RNA and DNA termed G-quadruplexes. G-quadruplexes have been shown to be involved in a range of processes including telomere stability and RNA transcription, splicing, translation and transport. Here we show using NMR and CD spectroscopy that the C9orf72 hexanucleotide expansion can form a stable G-quadruplex, which has profound implications for disease mechanism in ALS and FTD.
Frontotemporal degeneration (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are related but distinct neurodegenerative diseases. The identification of a hexanucleotide repeat expansion in a noncoding region of the chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72) gene as a common cause of FTD/ALS, familial FTD, and familial ALS marks the culmination of many years of investigation. This confirms the linkage of disease to chromosome 9 in large, multigenerational families with FTD and ALS, and it promotes deeper understanding of the diseases' shared molecular FTLD-TDP pathology. The discovery of the C9ORF72 repeat expansion has significant implications not only for familial FTD and ALS, but also for sporadic disease. Clinical and pathological correlates of the repeat expansion are being reported but remain to be refined, and a genetic test to detect the expansion has only recently become clinically available. Consequently, individuals and their families who are considering genetic testing for the C9ORF72 expansion should receive genetic counseling to discuss the risks, benefits, and limitations of testing. The following review aims to describe genetic counseling considerations for individuals at risk for a C9ORF72 repeat expansion.
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are part of a disease spectrum associated with TDP-43 pathology. Strong evidence supporting this is the existence of kindreds with family members affected by FTD, ALS or mixed features of FTD and ALS, referred to as FTD-MND. Some of these families have linkage to chromosome 9, with hexanucleotide expansion mutation in a noncoding region of C9ORF72. Discovery of the mutation defines c9FTD/ALS. Prior to discovery of mutations in C9ORF72, it was assumed that TDP-43 pathology in c9FTD/ALS was uniform. In this study, we examined the neuropathology and clinical features of 20 cases of c9FTD/ALS from a brain bank for neurodegenerative disorders. Included are six patients clinically diagnosed with ALS, eight FTD, one FTD-MND and four Alzheimer type dementia. Clinical information was unavailable for one patient. Pathologically, the cases all had TDP-43 pathology, but there were three major pathologic groups: ALS, FTLD-MND and FTLD-TDP. The ALS cases were morphologically similar to typical sporadic ALS with almost no extramotor TDP-43 pathology; all had oligodendroglial cytoplasmic inclusions. The FTLD-MND showed predominantly Mackenzie Type 3 TDP-43 pathology, and all had ALS-like pathology in motor neurons, but more extensive extramotor pathology, with oligodendroglial cytoplasmic inclusions and infrequent hippocampal sclerosis. The FTLD-TDP cases had several features similar to FTLD-TDP due to mutations in the gene for progranulin, including Mackenzie Type 1 TDP-43 pathology with neuronal intranuclear inclusions and hippocampal sclerosis. FTLD-TDP patients were older and some were thought to have Alzheimer type dementia. In addition to the FTD and ALS clinical presentations, the present study shows that c9FTD/ALS can have other presentations, possibly related to age of onset and presence of hippocampal sclerosis. Moreover, there is pathologic heterogeneity not only between ALS and FTLD, but within the FTLD group. Further studies are needed to address the molecular mechanism of clinical and pathological heterogeneity of c9FTD/ALS due to mutations in C9ORF72.
Earlier reports of chromosome 9p-linked frontotemporal dementia (FTD) with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) kindreds observed psychosis as a prominent feature in some patients. Since the discovery of chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9orf72) hexanucleotide expansions as a cause of FTD and ALS, research groups and consortia around the world have reported their respective observations of the clinical features associated with this mutation. We reviewed the recent literature on C9orf72-associated FTD and ALS with focus on the neuropsychiatric features associated with this mutation, as well as the experience at University of California, San Francisco. The results and methodologies varied greatly across studies, making comparison of results challenging. Four reports found that psychotic features (particularly delusions) were frequent among mutation carriers, particularly when present early during the disease course, suggesting that this symptom category may be a marker for the mutation. Disinhibition and apathy were the most commonly reported early behavioral symptoms, but these may not be helpful in distinguishing carriers and noncarriers because of the symptoms' frequency in sporadic behavioral variant FTD. Other neuropsychiatric features were reported in different frequencies across studies, suggesting either a similar behavioral phenotype in carriers and noncarriers or reflecting the heterogeneity in clinical presentation of behavioral variant FTD due to C9orf72 expansions. Further studies with larger cohorts will be necessary to determine the neuropsychiatric presentation associated with this mutation.
A hexanucleotide repeat expansion in C9ORF72 has been established as a common cause of frontotemporal dementia (FTD). However, the minimum repeat number necessary for disease pathogenesis is not known. The aims of our study were to determine the frequency of the C9ORF72 repeat expansion in two FTD patient collections (one Australian and one Spanish, combined n = 190), to examine C9ORF72 expansion allele length in a subset of FTD patients, and to examine C9ORF72 allele length in ‘non-expansion’ patients (those with <30 repeats). The C9ORF72 repeat expansion was detected in 5–17% of patients (21–41% of familial FTD patients). For one family, the expansion was present in the proband but absent in the mother, who was diagnosed with dementia at age 68. No association was found between C9ORF72 non-expanded allele length and age of onset and in the Spanish sample mean allele length was shorter in cases than in controls. Southern blotting analysis revealed that one of the nine ‘expansion-positive’ patients examined, who had neuropathologically confirmed frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43 pathology, harboured an ‘intermediate’ allele with a mean size of only ∼65 repeats. Our study indicates that the C9ORF72 repeat expansion accounts for a significant proportion of Australian and Spanish FTD cases. However, C9ORF72 allele length does not influence the age at onset of ‘non-expansion’ FTD patients in the series examined. Expansion of the C9ORF72 allele to as little as ∼65 repeats may be sufficient to cause disease.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease characterized clinically by rapidly progressive paralysis leading ultimately to death from respiratory failure. It is now recognized that ALS and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) form a clinical spectrum of disease with overlapping clinical, pathological and genetic features. This past year, the genetic causes of ALS have expanded to include mutations in the genes OPTN, VCP, and UBQLN2, and the hexanucleotide repeat expansion in C9ORF72. The C9ORF72 repeat expansion solidifies the notion that ALS and FTLD are phenotypic variations of a disease spectrum with a common molecular etiology. Furthermore, the C9ORF72 expansion is the genetic cause of a substantial portion of apparently sporadic ALS and FTLD cases, showing that genetics plays a clear role in sporadic disease. Here we describe the progress made in the genetics of ALS and FTLD, including a detailed look at how new insights brought about by C9ORF72 have both broadened and unified current concepts in neurodegeneration.
To report the clinical, electroencephalographic, and neuroradiologic findings in a kindred with a novel insertion in the prion protein gene (PRNP).
Clinical description of a kindred.
Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (Rochester).
Two pathologically-confirmed cases and their relatives.
Main outcome measures
Clinical features, electroencephalographic patterns, magnetic resonance imaging abnormalities, genetic analyses and neuropathological features.
The proband presented with clinical and neuroimaging features of atypical frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and ataxia. Generalized tonic-clonic seizures developed later in her course, and electroencephalography revealed spike and wave discharges but no periodic sharp wave complexes. Her affected sister and father also exhibited FTD-like features, and both experienced generalized tonic-clonic seizures and gait ataxia late in their course. Genetic analyses in the proband identified a novel defect in PRNP with one mutated allele carrying a 288 base pair insertion (BPI) consisting of 12 octapeptide repeats. Neuropathologic examination of the sister and proband revealed PrP-positive plaques and widespread tau-positive tangles.
This kindred has a unique combination of clinical and neuropathologic features associated with the largest BPI identified to date in PRNP, and underscores the need to consider familial prion disease in the differential diagnosis of a familial FTD-like syndrome.
frontotemporal dementia; FTD; nonfluent aphasia; Gerstmann–Straüssler–Scheinker syndrome (GSS); Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD); prion; PRNP
To determine the genetic basis of familial frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) we performed a clinical and genetic analysis of an affected family. A 51-year-old man with behavioral variant FTLD with ALS had a family history of the disease suggestive of autosomal dominant inheritance with incomplete penetrance. Genetic studies in this patient demonstrated the presence of an amplified hexanucleotide repeat (>30) polymorphism in the chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72) gene which was previously identified as a cause of FTLD. Five others unaffected from the family were negative (all had less than 11 repeats). Because of the clinical and pathological overlap between FTLD and AD we performed a larger genome-wide association study and did not find association of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the C9ORF72 gene with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) risk. Bioinformatic analysis of C9ORF72 using the Gene Expression Omnibus database showed expression differences in patients with muscular dystrophy, neural tube defects, and schizophrenia. We also report analysis of gene expression in brain regions using the Allen Human Brain Atlas. Defects in this recently reported gene are now believed to be the most common cause of inherited ALS and an important cause of inherited FTLD. Our work suggests that the gene may also be important in other neurological and psychiatric conditions.
dementia; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; motor neuron disease; ubiquitin; disinhibition; hexanucleotide repeat
There is increasing evidence that frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) represent a continuum of neurodegenerative diseases. FTLD is complicated by ALS in a significant proportion of patients, and neuropsychological studies have demonstrated frontotemporal dysfunction in up to 50% of ALS patients. More recently, advances in neuropathology and molecular genetics have started to disclose the biological basis for the observed clinical concurrence. TDP-43 and FUS have been discovered as key pathological proteins in both FTLD and ALS. The most recent discovery of a pathological hexanucleotide repeat expansion in the gene C9orf72 as a frequent cause of both FTLD and ALS has eventually confirmed the association of these two at first sight distinct neurodegenerative diseases. Mutations in the TARDBP, FUS, and VCP genes had previously been associated with different phenotypes of the FTLD-ALS spectrum, although in these cases one end of the spectrum predominates. Whilst on the one hand providing evidence for overlap, these discoveries have also highlighted that FTLD and ALS are etiologically diverse. In this review, we review the recent advances that support the existence of an FTLD-ALS spectrum, with particular emphasis on the molecular genetic aspect.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; C9orf72; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; genotype–phenotype correlations; molecular genetics; pathology
C9OF72-hexanucleotide repeat expansions and ubiquilin-2 (UBQLN2) mutations are recently identified genetic markers in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). We investigate the relationship between C9ORF72 expansions and the clinical phenotype and neuropathology of ALS and FTLD. Genetic analysis and immunohistochemistry (1HC) were performed on autopsy-confirmed ALS (N = 75), FTLD-TDP (N = 30), AD (N = 14), and controls (N = 11). IHC for neurodegenerative disease pathology consisted of C9ORF72, UBQLN, p62, and TDP-43. A C9ORF72 expansion was identified in 19.4 % of ALS and 31 % of FTLD-TDP cases. ALS cases with C9ORF72 expansions frequently showed a bulbar onset of disease (57 %) and more rapid disease progression to death compared to non-expansion cases. Staining with C9ORF72 antibodies did not yield specific pathology. UBQLN pathology showed a highly distinct pattern in ALS and FTLD-TDP cases with the C9ORF72 expansion, with UBQLN-positive cytoplasmic inclusions in the cerebellar granular layer and extensive UBQLN-positive aggregates and dystrophic neurites in the hippocampal molecular layer and CA regions. These UBQLN pathologies were sufficiently unique to allow correct prediction of cases that were later confirmed to have C9ORF72 expansions by genetic analysis. UBQLN pathology partially co-localized with p62, and to a minor extent with TDP-43 positive dystrophic neurites and spinal cord skein-like inclusions. Our data indicate a pathophysiological link between C9ORF72 expansions and UBQLN proteins in ALS and FTLD-TDP that is associated with a highly characteristic pattern of UBQLN pathology. Our study indicates that this pathology is associated with alterations in clinical phenotype, and suggests that the presence of C9ORF72 repeat expansions may indicate a worse prognosis in ALS.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; C9ORF72; UBQLN2; UBQLN1
An expanded hexanucleotide repeat in the C9ORF72 gene has recently been identified as a major cause of familial frontotemporal lobar degeneration and motor neuron disease, including cases previously identified as linked to chromosome 9. Here we present a detailed retrospective clinical, neuroimaging and histopathological analysis of a C9ORF72 mutation case series in relation to other forms of genetically determined frontotemporal lobar degeneration ascertained at a specialist centre. Eighteen probands (19 cases in total) were identified, representing 35% of frontotemporal lobar degeneration cases with identified mutations, 36% of cases with clinical evidence of motor neuron disease and 7% of the entire cohort. Thirty-three per cent of these C9ORF72 cases had no identified relevant family history. Families showed wide variation in clinical onset (43–68 years) and duration (1.7–22 years). The most common presenting syndrome (comprising a half of cases) was behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia, however, there was substantial clinical heterogeneity across the C9ORF72 mutation cohort. Sixty per cent of cases developed clinical features consistent with motor neuron disease during the period of follow-up. Anxiety and agitation and memory impairment were prominent features (between a half to two-thirds of cases), and dominant parietal dysfunction was also frequent. Affected individuals showed variable magnetic resonance imaging findings; however, relative to healthy controls, the group as a whole showed extensive thinning of frontal, temporal and parietal cortices, subcortical grey matter atrophy including thalamus and cerebellum and involvement of long intrahemispheric, commissural and corticospinal tracts. The neuroimaging profile of the C9ORF72 expansion was significantly more symmetrical than progranulin mutations with significantly less temporal lobe involvement than microtubule-associated protein tau mutations. Neuropathological examination in six cases with C9ORF72 mutation from the frontotemporal lobar degeneration series identified histomorphological features consistent with either type A or B TAR DNA-binding protein-43 deposition; however, p62-positive (in excess of TAR DNA-binding protein-43 positive) neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions in hippocampus and cerebellum were a consistent feature of these cases, in contrast to the similar frequency of p62 and TAR DNA-binding protein-43 deposition in 53 control cases with frontotemporal lobar degeneration–TAR DNA-binding protein. These findings corroborate the clinical importance of the C9ORF72 mutation in frontotemporal lobar degeneration, delineate phenotypic and neuropathological features that could help to guide genetic testing, and suggest hypotheses for elucidating the neurobiology of a culprit subcortical network.
frontotemporal lobar degeneration; motor neuron disease; neurodegenerative disorders; neuroimaging; genetics
The identification of a hexanucleotide repeat expansion in the C9ORF72 gene as the cause of chromosome 9-linked frontotemporal dementia and motor neuron disease offers the opportunity for greater understanding of the relationship between these disorders and other clinical forms of frontotemporal lobar degeneration. In this study, we screened a cohort of 398 patients with frontotemporal dementia, progressive non-fluent aphasia, semantic dementia or mixture of these syndromes for mutations in the C9ORF72 gene. Motor neuron disease was present in 55 patients (14%). We identified 32 patients with C9ORF72 mutations, representing 8% of the cohort. The patients’ clinical phenotype at presentation varied: nine patients had frontotemporal dementia with motor neuron disease, 19 had frontotemporal dementia alone, one had mixed semantic dementia with frontal features and three had progressive non-fluent aphasia. There was, as expected, a significant association between C9ORF72 mutations and presence of motor neuron disease. Nevertheless, 46 patients, including 22 familial, had motor neuron disease but no mutation in C9ORF72. Thirty-eight per cent of the patients with C9ORF72 mutations presented with psychosis, with a further 28% exhibiting paranoid, deluded or irrational thinking, whereas <4% of non-mutation bearers presented similarly. The presence of psychosis dramatically increased the odds that patients carried the mutation. Mutation bearers showed a low incidence of motor stereotypies, and relatively high incidence of complex repetitive behaviours, largely linked to patients’ delusions. They also showed a lower incidence of acquired sweet food preference than patients without C9ORF72 mutations. Post-mortem pathology in five patients revealed transactive response DNA-binding protein 43 pathology, type A in one patient and type B in three. However, one patient had corticobasal degeneration pathology. The findings indicate that C9ORF72 mutations cause some but not all cases of frontotemporal dementia with motor neuron disease. Other mutations remain to be discovered. C9ORF72 mutations are associated with variable clinical presentations and pathology. Nevertheless, the findings highlight a powerful association between C9ORF72 mutations and psychosis and suggest that the behavioural characteristics of patients with C9ORF72 mutations are qualitatively distinct. Mutations in the C9ORF72 gene may be a major cause not only of frontotemporal dementia with motor neuron disease but also of late onset psychosis.
frontotemporal lobar degeneration; clinical characteristics; motor neuron disease; psychosis; neuropathology
An expanded hexanucleotide repeat in the C9ORF72 gene has recently been identified as an important cause of frontotemporal dementia and motor neuron disease; however, the phenotypic spectrum of this entity and its pathophysiologic basis have yet to be fully defined. Psychiatric features may be early and prominent, although a putative cortico-thalamo-cerebellar network has been implicated in the pathogenesis of the clinical phenotype. Differentiation of self from others is a core cognitive operation that could potentially link network disintegration with neuropsychiatric symptoms in C9ORF72-associated frontotemporal dementia.
We undertook a detailed behavioral analysis of self-other attribution in a 67-year-old male patient with behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) due to the C9ORF72 expansion by using a novel paradigm requiring differentiation of the effects of self- and non-self-generated actions. The patient's performance was assessed in relation to two older male patients with bvFTD not attributable to the C9ORF72 expansion and four healthy older male subjects.
Compared with the healthy control group, the patient with the C9OFR72 mutation showed a deficit of self-other differentiation that was disproportionate to his otherwise relatively indolent clinical phenotype. The performance of the other patients with bvFTD was similar to that of healthy subjects.
We propose that impaired self-other differentiation is a candidate mechanism for neuropsychiatric decline in association with the C9ORF72 expansion. We offer this preliminary observation as a stimulus to further work.
Mutations in progranulin (PGRN) are associated with frontotemporal dementia with or without parkinsonism. We describe the prominent phenotypic variability within and among eight kindreds evaluated at Mayo Clinic Rochester and/or Mayo Clinic Jacksonville in whom mutations in PGRN were found. All available clinical, genetic, neuroimaging and neuropathologic data was reviewed. Age of onset ranged from 49 to 88 years and disease duration ranged from 1 to 14 years. Clinical diagnoses included frontotemporal dementia (FTD), primary progressive aphasia, FTD with parkinsonism, parkinsonism, corticobasal syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, amnestic mild cognitive impairment, and others. One kindred exhibited maximal right cerebral hemispheric atrophy in all four affected individuals, while another had maximal left hemisphere involvement in all three of the affected. Neuropathologic examination of 13 subjects revealed frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitin-positive inclusions plus neuronal intranuclear inclusions in all cases. Age of onset, clinical phenotypes and MRI findings associated with most PGRN mutations varied significantly both within and among kindreds. Some kindreds with PGRN mutations exhibited lateralized topography of degeneration across all affected individuals.
Frontotemporal dementia; FTDP-17; Progranulin; PGRN; MRI
Spinocerebellar ataxia 36 has been recently described in Japanese families as a new type of spinocerebellar ataxia with motor neuron signs. It is caused by a GGCCTG repeat expansion in intron 1 of NOP56. Family interview and document research allowed us to reconstruct two extensive, multigenerational kindreds stemming from the same village (Costa da Morte in Galicia, Spain), in the 17th century. We found the presence of the spinocerebellar ataxia 36 mutation co-segregating with disease in these families in whom we had previously identified an ∼0.8 Mb linkage region to chromosome 20 p. Subsequent screening revealed the NOP56 expansion in eight additional Galician ataxia kindreds. While normal alleles contain 5–14 hexanucleotide repeats, expanded alleles range from ∼650 to 2500 repeats, within a shared haplotype. Further expansion of repeat size was frequent, especially upon paternal transmission, while instances of allele contraction were observed in maternal transmissions. We found a total of 63 individuals carrying the mutation, 44 of whom were confirmed to be clinically affected; over 400 people are at risk. We describe here the detailed clinical picture, consisting of a late-onset, slowly progressive cerebellar syndrome with variable eye movement abnormalities and sensorineural hearing loss. There were signs of denervation in the tongue, as well as mild pyramidal signs, but otherwise no signs of classical amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Magnetic resonance imaging findings were consistent with the clinical course, showing atrophy of the cerebellar vermis in initial stages, later evolving to a pattern of olivo-ponto-cerebellar atrophy. We estimated the origin of the founder mutation in Galicia to have occurred ∼1275 years ago. Out of 160 Galician families with spinocerebellar ataxia, 10 (6.3%) were found to have spinocerebellar ataxia 36, while 15 (9.4%) showed other of the routinely tested dominant spinocerebellar ataxia types. Spinocerebellar ataxia 36 is thus, so far, the most frequent dominant spinocerebellar ataxia in this region, which may have implications for American countries associated with traditional Spanish emigration.
spinocerebellar ataxia; NOP56; expansion mutation; founder effect; Galicia