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.
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
Mutations in the progranulin gene (GRN) are an important cause of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) with ubiquitin and TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP43)-positive pathology. The clinical presentation associated with GRN mutations is heterogeneous and may include clinical probable Alzheimer's disease. All GRN mutations identified thus far cause disease through a uniform disease mechanism, i.e. the loss of functional GRN or haploinsufficiency. To determine if expression of GRN in plasma could predict GRN mutation status and could be used as a biological marker, we optimized a GRN ELISA and studied plasma samples of a consecutive clinical FTLD series of 219 patients, 70 control individuals, 72 early-onset probable Alzheimer's disease patients and nine symptomatic and 18 asymptomatic relatives of GRN mutation families. All FTLD patients with GRN loss-of-function mutations showed significantly reduced levels of GRN in plasma to about one third of the levels observed in non-GRN carriers and control individuals (P < 0.001). No overlap in distributions of GRN levels was observed between the eight GRN loss-of-function mutation carriers (range: 53–94 ng/ml) and 191 non-GRN mutation carriers (range: 115–386 ng/ml). Similar low levels of GRN were identified in asymptomatic GRN mutation carriers. Importantly, ELISA analyses also identified one probable Alzheimer's disease patient (1.4%) carrying a loss-of-function mutation in GRN. Biochemical analyses further showed that the GRN ELISA only detects full-length GRN, no intermediate granulin fragments. This study demonstrates that using a GRN ELISA in plasma, pathogenic GRN mutations can be accurately detected in symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers. The ∼75% reduction in full-length GRN, suggests an unbalanced GRN metabolism in loss-of-function mutation carriers whereby more GRN is processed into granulins. We propose that plasma GRN levels could be used as a reliable and inexpensive tool to identify all GRN mutation carriers in early-onset dementia populations and asymptomatic at-risk individuals.
Progranulin; ELISA; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Alzheimer's disease
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
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
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
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 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
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) comprises a group of behavioral, language, and movement disorders. On the basis of the nature of the characteristic protein inclusions, frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) can be subdivided into the common FTLD-tau and FTLD-TDP as well as the less common FTLD-FUS and FTLD-UPS. Approximately 10% of cases of FTD are inherited in an autosomal-dominant manner. Mutations in seven genes cause FTD, with those in tau (MAPT), chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72), and progranulin (GRN) being the most common. Mutations in MAPT give rise to FTLD-tau and mutations in C9ORF72 and GRN to FTLD-TDP. The other four genes are transactive response–DNA binding protein-43 (TARDBP), fused in sarcoma (FUS), valosin-containing protein (VCP), and charged multivesicular body protein 2B (CHMP2B). Mutations in TARDBP and VCP give rise to FTLD-TDP, mutations in FUS to FTLD-FUS, and mutations in CHMP2B to FTLD-UPS. The discovery that mutations in MAPT cause neurodegeneration and dementia has important implications for understanding Alzheimer disease.
Mutations in the tau (MAPT) gene account for ∼5% of frontotemporal dementia cases. They give rise to characteristic protein inclusions, providing insight into tau pathology in Alzheimer disease.
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.
Studies suggest that frontotemporal lobar degeneration with transactive response DNA-binding protein of 43 kDa (TDP-43) proteinopathy (FTLD-TDP) is heterogeneous with division into four or five subtypes. To determine the degree of heterogeneity and the validity of the subtypes, we studied neuropathological variation within the frontal and temporal lobes of 94 cases of FTLD-TDP using quantitative estimates of density and principal components analysis (PCA). A PCA based on the density of TDP-43 immunoreactive neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions, oligodendroglial inclusions, neuronal intranuclear inclusions, and dystrophic neurites, surviving neurons, enlarged neurons, and vacuolation suggested that cases were not segregated into distinct subtypes. Variation in the density of the vacuoles was the greatest source of variation between cases. A PCA based on TDP-43 pathology alone suggested that cases of FTLD-TDP with progranulin (GRN) mutation segregated to some degree. The pathological phenotype of all four subtypes overlapped but subtypes 1 and 4 were the most distinctive. Cases with coexisting motor neuron disease (MND) or hippocampal sclerosis (HS) also appeared to segregate to some extent. We suggest: (1) pathological variation in FTLD-TDP is best described as a ‘continuum’ without clearly distinct subtypes, (2) vacuolation was the single greatest source of variation and reflects the ‘stage’ of the disease, and (3) within the FTLD-TDP ‘continuum’ cases with GRN mutation and with coexisting MND or HS may have a more distinctive pathology.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43 proteinopathy; FTLD with ubiquitin-positive inclusions; TAR DNA-binding protein of 43 kDa; Neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions; Neuropathologic heterogeneity; Principal components analysis
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43 inclusions (FTLD-TDP) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease with no available treatments. Mutations in the progranulin gene (GRN) causing impaired production or secretion of progranulin are a common Mendelian cause of FTLD-TDP; additionally, common variants at chromosome 7p21 in the uncharacterized gene TMEM106B were recently linked by genome-wide association to FTLD-TDP with and without GRN mutations. Here we show that TMEM106B is neuronally expressed in postmortem human brain tissue, and that expression levels are increased in FTLD-TDP brain. Furthermore, using an unbiased, microarray-based screen of over 800 microRNAs, we identify microRNA-132 as the top microRNA differentiating FTLD-TDP and control brains, with <50% normal expression levels of three members of the microRNA-132 cluster (microRNA-132, microRNA-132*, and microRNA-212) in disease. Computational analyses, corroborated empirically, demonstrate that the top mRNA target of both microRNA-132 and microRNA-212 is TMEM106B; both microRNAs repress TMEM106B expression through shared microRNA-132/212 binding sites in the TMEM106B 3’UTR. Increasing TMEM106B expression to model disease results in enlargement and poor acidification of endo-lysosomes, as well as impairment of mannose-6-phosphate-receptor trafficking. Finally, endogenous neuronal TMEM106B co-localizes with progranulin in late endo-lysosomes, and TMEM106B over-expression increases intracellular levels of progranulin. Thus, TMEM106B is an FTLD-TDP risk gene, with microRNA-132/212 depression as an event which can lead to aberrant over-expression of TMEM106B, which in turn alters progranulin pathways. Evidence for this pathogenic cascade includes the striking convergence of two independent, genomic-scale screens on a microRNA:mRNA regulatory pair. Our findings open novel directions for elucidating miRNA-based therapies in FTLD-TDP.
Frontotemporal dementia; microRNA-132; microRNA-212; progranulin; TDP-43; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; TMEM106B
Mutations of the progranulin (GRN) gene are major cause of familial frontotemporal lobar degeneration with transactive response (TAR) DNA-binding protein of 43kDa (TDP-43) proteinopathy (FTLD-TDP). We studied the spatial patterns of TDP-43 immunoreactive neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions (NCI) neuronal intranuclear inclusions (NII) in histological sections of the frontal and temporal lobe in eight cases of FTLD-TDP with GRN mutation using morphometric methods and spatial pattern analysis. In neocortical regions, the NCI were clustered and the clusters were regularly distributed parallel to the pia mater; 58% of regions analysed exhibiting this pattern. The NII were present in regularly distributed clusters in 35% of regions but also randomly distributed in many areas. In neocortical regions, the sizes of the regular clusters of NCI and NII were 400–800 µm, approximating to the size of the modular columns of the cortico-cortical projections, in 31% and 36% of regions respectively. The NCI and NII also exhibited regularly spaced clustering in sectors CA1/2 of the hippocampus and in dentate gyrus. The clusters of NCI and NII were not spatially correlated. The data suggest degeneration of the cortico-cortical and cortico-hippocampal pathways in FTLD-TDP with GRN mutation, the NCI and NII affecting different clusters of neurons.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43 proteinopathy (FTLD-TDP); TAR DNA-binding protein (TDP-43); Progranulin (GRN) mutation; Spatial topography
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 (FTLD) is most commonly associated with TAR-DNA binding protein (TDP-43) or tau pathology at autopsy, but there are no in vivo biomarkers reliably discriminating between sporadic cases. As disease-modifying treatments emerge, it is critical to accurately identify underlying pathology in living patients so that they can be entered into appropriate etiology-directed clinical trials. Patients with tau inclusions (FTLD-TAU) appear to have relatively greater white matter (WM) disease at autopsy than those patients with TDP-43 (FTLD-TDP). In this paper, we investigate the ability of white matter (WM) imaging to help discriminate between FTLD-TAU and FTLD-TDP during life using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI).
Patients with autopsy-confirmed disease or a genetic mutation consistent with FTLD-TDP or FTLD-TAU underwent multimodal T1 volumetric MRI and diffusion weighted imaging scans. We quantified cortical thickness in GM and fractional anisotropy (FA) in WM. We performed Eigenanatomy, a statistically robust dimensionality reduction algorithm, and used leave-one-out cross-validation to predict underlying pathology. Neuropathological assessment of GM and WM disease burden was performed in the autopsy-cases to confirm our findings of an ante-mortem GM and WM dissociation in the neuroimaging cohort.
ROC curve analyses evaluated classification accuracy in individual patients and revealed 96% sensitivity and 100% specificity for WM analyses. FTLD-TAU had significantly more WM degeneration and inclusion severity at autopsy relative to FTLD-TDP.
These neuroimaging and neuropathological investigations provide converging evidence for greater WM burden associated with FTLD-TAU, and emphasize the role of WM neuroimaging for in vivo discrimination between FTLD-TAU and FTLD-TDP.
To determine whether TDP-43 type is associated with distinct patterns of brain atrophy on MRI in subjects with pathologically confirmed frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD).
In this case-control study, we identified all subjects with a pathologic diagnosis of FTLD with TDP-43 immunoreactive inclusions (FTLD-TDP) and at least one volumetric head MRI scan (n = 42). In each case we applied published criteria for subclassification of FTLD-TDP into FTLD-TDP types 1-3. Voxel-based morphometry was used to compare subjects with each of the different FTLD-TDP types to age- and gender-matched normal controls (n = 30). We also assessed different pathologic and genetic variants within, and across, the different types.
Twenty-two subjects were classified as FTLD-TDP type 1, 9 as type 2, and 11 as type 3. We identified different patterns of atrophy across the types with type 1 showing frontotemporal and parietal atrophy, type 2 predominantly anterior temporal lobe atrophy, and type 3 predominantly posterior frontal atrophy. Within the FTLD-TDP type 1 group, those with a progranulin mutation had significantly more lateral temporal lobe atrophy than those without. All type 2 subjects were diagnosed with semantic dementia. Subjects with a pathologic diagnosis of FTLD with motor neuron degeneration had a similar pattern of atrophy, regardless of whether they were type 1 or type 3.
Although there are different patterns of atrophy across the different FTLD-TDP types, it appears that genetic and pathologic factors may also affect the patterns of atrophy.
= Alzheimer disease;
= Alzheimer's Disease Research Center;
= behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia;
= corticobasal syndrome;
= Clinical Dementia Rating scale sum of boxes;
= frontotemporal lobar degeneration;
= frontotemporal lobar degeneration with motor neuron degeneration;
= frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43 immunoreactive inclusions;
= Mini-Mental State Examination;
= neuronal cytoplasmic inclusion;
= progressive nonfluent aphasia;
= semantic dementia;
= Short Test of Mental Status;
= voxel-based morphometry.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) can be classified as tau-positive (FTLD-tau) and tau-negative FTLD. The most common form of tau-negative FTLD is associated with neuronal inclusions that are composed of TAR DNA binding protein 43 (TDP-43) (FTLD-TDP). Recent evidence suggests that FTLD-TDP can be further subdivided into at least three major histologic variants based on patterns of TDP-43 immunoreactive neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions (NCI) and dystrophic neurites (DN) in neocortex and hippocampus. The aim of this study was to extend the histologic analysis to other brain regions and to determine if there were distinct clinical and pathologic characteristics of the FTLD-TDP subtypes. Thirty-nine FTLD-TDP cases were analyzed (Mackenzie type 1, n = 24; Mackenzie type 2, n = 9; Mackenzie type 3, n = 6). There was a highly significant association between clinical syndrome and FTLD-TDP subtype, with progressive non-fluent aphasia associated with type 1, semantic dementia with type 2, and behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia with types 1, 2 and 3. Semi-quantitative analysis of NCI and DN demonstrated different patterns of involvement in cortical, subcortical and brainstem areas that were characteristic for each of the three types of FTLD-TDP. Type 1 had a mixture of NCI and DN, as well as intranuclear inclusions in most cases and TDP-43 pathology at all levels of the neuraxis, but less in brainstem than supratentorial structures. Type 2 cases were characterized by predominance of long, thick DN in the cortex, as well as numerous NCI in hippocampus, amygdala and basal ganglia, but virtually no NCI and only sparse DN in diencephalon and brainstem. Type 3 had a paucity of DN at all levels of the neuraxis and significantly more NCI in the hypoglossal nucleus than the other types. These findings extend previously described clinicopathological associations of FTLD-TDP subtypes and support the notion that FTLD-TDP subtypes may be distinct clinicopathologic disorders.
frontotemporal dementia; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; immunohistochemistry; progressive non-fluent aphasia; semantic dementia; TDP-43
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is a highly heterogenous group of progressive neurodegenerative disorders characterized by atrophy of prefrontal and anterior temporal cortices. Recently, the research in the field of FTLD has gained increased attention due to the clinical, neuropathological, and genetic heterogeneity and has increased our understanding of the disease pathogenesis. FTLD is a genetically complex disorder. It has a strong genetic basis and 50% of patients show a positive family history for FTLD. Linkage studies have revealed seven chromosomal loci and a number of genes including MAPT, PGRN, VCP, and CHMB-2B are associated with the disease. Neuropathologically, FTLD is classified into tauopathies and ubiquitinopathies. The vast majority of FTLD cases are characterized by pathological accumulation of tau or TDP-43 positive inclusions, each as an outcome of mutations in MAPT or PGRN, respectively. Identification of novel proteins involved in the pathophysiology of the disease, such as progranulin and TDP-43, may prove to be excellent biomarkers of disease progression and thereby lead to the development of better therapeutic options through pharmacogenomics. However, much more dissections into the causative pathways are needed to get a full picture of the etiology. Over the past decade, advances in research on the genetics of FTLD have revealed many pathogenic mutations leading to different clinical manifestations of the disease. This review discusses the current concepts and recent advances in our understanding of the genetics of FTLD.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; genetic risk factors; microtubule-associated protein tau; mutations; progranulin; TDP-43
We sought to describe the antemortem clinical and neuroimaging features among patients with frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43 immunoreactive inclusions (FTLD-TDP).
Subjects were recruited from a consecutive series of patients with a primary neuropathologic diagnosis of FTLD-TDP and antemortem MRI. Twenty-eight patients met entry criteria: 9 with type 1, 5 with type 2, and 10 with type 3 FTLD-TDP. Four patients had too sparse FTLD-TDP pathology to be subtyped. Clinical, neuropsychological, and neuroimaging features of these cases were reviewed. Voxel-based morphometry was used to assess regional gray matter atrophy in relation to a group of 50 cognitively normal control subjects.
Clinical diagnosis varied between the groups: semantic dementia was only associated with type 1 pathology, whereas progressive nonfluent aphasia and corticobasal syndrome were only associated with type 3. Behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia and frontotemporal dementia with motor neuron disease were seen in type 2 or type 3 pathology. The neuroimaging analysis revealed distinct patterns of atrophy between the pathologic subtypes: type 1 was associated with asymmetric anterior temporal lobe atrophy (either left- or right-predominant) with involvement also of the orbitofrontal lobes and insulae; type 2 with relatively symmetric atrophy of the medial temporal, medial prefrontal, and orbitofrontal-insular cortices; and type 3 with asymmetric atrophy (either left- or right-predominant) involving more dorsal areas including frontal, temporal, and inferior parietal cortices as well as striatum and thalamus. No significant atrophy was seen among patients with too sparse pathology to be subtyped.
FTLD-TDP subtypes have distinct clinical and neuroimaging features, highlighting the relevance of FTLD-TDP subtyping to clinicopathologic correlation.
= behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia;
= corticobasal syndrome;
= Clinical Dementia Rating;
= false discovery rate;
= frontotemporal dementia;
= frontotemporal lobar degeneration;
= frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43 immunoreactive inclusions;
= fused in sarcoma;
= Mini-Mental State Examination;
= motor neuron disease;
= progressive nonfluent aphasia;
= TAR DNA-binding protein of 43 kDa;
= University of California, San Francisco;
= voxel-based morphometry.
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
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
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is a heterogeneous group of disorders characterized by disturbances of behavior and personality and different types of language impairment with or without concomitant features of motor neuron disease or parkinsonism. FTLD is characterized by atrophy of the frontal and anterior temporal brain lobes. Detailed neuropathological studies have elicited proteinopathies defined by inclusions of hyperphosphorylated microtubule-associated protein tau, TAR DNA-binding protein TDP-43, fused-in-sarcoma or yet unidentified proteins in affected brain regions. Rather than the type of proteinopathy, the site of neurodegeneration correlates relatively well with the clinical presentation of FTLD. Molecular genetic studies identified five disease genes, of which the gene encoding the tau protein (MAPT), the growth factor precursor gene granulin (GRN), and C9orf72 with unknown function are most frequently mutated. Rare mutations were also identified in the genes encoding valosin-containing protein (VCP) and charged multivesicular body protein 2B (CHMP2B). These genes are good markers to distinguish underlying neuropathological phenotypes. Due to the complex landscape of FTLD diseases, combined characterization of clinical, imaging, biological and genetic biomarkers is essential to establish a detailed diagnosis. Although major progress has been made in FTLD research in recent years, further studies are needed to completely map out and correlate the clinical, pathological and genetic entities, and to understand the underlying disease mechanisms. In this review, we summarize the current state of the rapidly progressing field of genetic, neuropathological and clinical research of this intriguing condition.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Proteinopathy; MAPT; GRN; C9orf72; VCP; CHMP2B; Tau; TDP-43; FUS
A single nucleotide polymorphism (rs5848) located in the 3′- untranslated region of GRN has recently been associated with a risk of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) in North American population particularly in pathologically confirmed cases with neural inclusions immunoreactive for ubiquitin and TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43), but negative for tau and alpha-synuclein (FTLD-TDP).
In an effort to replicate these results in a different population, rs5848 was genotyped in 256 FTLD cases and 1695 controls from the Netherlands. Single SNP gender-adjusted logistic regression analysis revealed no significant association between variation at rs5848 and FTLD. Fisher's exact test, failed to find any significant association between rs5848 and a subset of 23 pathology confirmed FTLD-TDP cases.
The evidence presented here suggests that variation at rs5848 does not contribute to the etiology of FTLD in the Dutch population.
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.
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