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
An expanded GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat in C9ORF72 is the most common genetic cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration associated with TDP-43 pathology (FTLD-TDP). In addition to TDP-43-positive neuronal and glial inclusions, C9ORF72-linked FTLD-TDP has characteristic TDP-43-negative neuronal cytoplasmic and intranuclear inclusions as well as dystrophic neurites in the hippocampus and cerebellum. These lesions are immunopositive for ubiquitin and ubiquitin-binding proteins, such as sequestosome-1/p62 and ubiquilin-2. Studies examining the frequency of the C9ORF72 mutation in clinically probable Alzheimer’s disease (AD) have found a small proportion of AD cases with the mutation. This prompted us to systematically explore the frequency of Alzheimer type pathology in a series of 17 FTLD-TDP cases with mutations in C9ORF72 (FTLD-C9ORF72). We identified 4 cases with sufficient Alzheimer type pathology to meet criteria for intermediate-to-high likelihood AD. We compared AD pathology in the 17 FTLD-C9ORF72 to 13 cases of FTLD-TDP linked to mutations in the gene for progranulin (FTLD-GRN) and 36 cases of sporadic FTLD (sFTLD). FTLD-C9ORF72 cases had higher Braak neurofibrillary tangle stage than FTLD-GRN. Increased tau pathology in FTLD-C9ORF72 was assessed with thioflavin-S fluorescent microscopy-based neurofibrillary tangle counts and with image analysis of tau burden in temporal cortex and hippocampus. FTLD-C9ORF72 had significantly more neurofibrillary tangles and higher tau burden compared with FTLD-GRN. The differences were most marked in limbic regions. On the other hand, sFTLD and FTLD-C9ORF72 had a similar burden of tau pathology. These results suggest FTLD-C9ORF72 has increased propensity for tau pathology compared to FTLD-GRN, but not sFTLD. The accumulation of tau as well as lesions immunoreactive for ubiquitin and ubiquitin binding proteins (p62 and ubiquilin-2) suggests that mutations in C9ORF72 may involve disrupted protein degradation that favors accumulation of multiple different proteins.
frontotemporal lobar degeneration; C9ORF72; ubiquitin; p62; ubiquilin-2; tau
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
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 lobar degeneration is a fatal neurodegenerative disease that results in progressive decline in behavior, executive function and sometimes language. Disease mechanisms remain poorly understood. Recently, however, the DNA- and RNA-binding protein TDP-43 has been identified as the major protein present in the hallmark inclusion bodies of frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitinated inclusions (FTLD-U), suggesting a role for transcriptional dysregulation in FTLD-U pathophysiology. Using the Affymetrix U133A microarray platform, we profiled global gene expression in both histopathologically affected and unaffected areas of human FTLD-U brains. We then characterized differential gene expression with biological pathway analyses, cluster and principal component analyses, and subgroup analyses based on brain region and progranulin (GRN) gene status. Comparing 17 FTLD-U brains to 11 controls, we identified 414 upregulated and 210 downregulated genes in frontal cortex (P-value < 0.001). Moreover, cluster and principal component analyses revealed that samples with mutations or possibly pathogenic variations in the GRN gene (GRN+, 7/17) had an expression signature that was distinct from both normal controls and FTLD-U samples lacking GRN gene variations (GRN-, 10/17). Within the subgroup of GRN+ FTLD-U, we found >1300 dysregulated genes in frontal cortex (P-value < 0.001), many participating in pathways uniquely dysregulated in the GRN+ cases. Our findings demonstrate a distinct molecular phenotype for GRN+ FTLD-U, not readily apparent on clinical or histopathological examination, suggesting distinct pathophysiological mechanisms for GRN+ and GRN- subtypes of FTLD-U. In addition, these data from a large number of human brains provide a valuable resource for future testing of disease hypotheses.
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.
Hexanucleotide repeat expansions in chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9orf72) have recently been linked to frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and may be the most common genetic cause of both neurodegenerative diseases. Genetic variants at TMEM106B influence risk for the most common neuropathological subtype of FTLD, characterized by inclusions of TAR DNA binding protein of 43kDa (FTLD-TDP). Previous reports have shown that TMEM106B is a genetic modifier of FTLD-TDP caused by progranulin (GRN) mutations, with the major (risk) allele of rs1990622 associating with earlier age at onset of disease. Here we report that rs1990622 genotype affects age at death in a single-site discovery cohort of FTLD patients with C9orf72 expansions (n=14), with the major allele correlated with later age at death (p=0.024). We replicate this modifier effect in a 30-site international neuropathological cohort of FTLD-TDP patients with C9orf72 expansions (n=75), again finding that the major allele associates with later age at death (p=0.016), as well as later age at onset (p=0.019). In contrast, TMEM106B genotype does not affect age at onset or death in 241 FTLD-TDP cases negative for GRN mutations or C9orf72 expansions. Thus, TMEM106B is a genetic modifier of FTLD with C9orf72 expansions. Intriguingly, the genotype that confers increased risk for developing FTLD-TDP (major, or T, allele of rs1990622) is associated with later age at onset and death in C9orf72 expansion carriers, providing an example of sign epistasis in human neurodegenerative disease.
TMEM106B; C9orf72; frontotemporal dementia; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; genetic modifier
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 a genetically and pathologically heterogeneous neurodegenerative disorder.
We collected blood samples from a cohort of 225 patients with a diagnosis within the FTLD spectrum and examined the heritability of FTLD by giving each patient a family history score, from 1 (a clear autosomal dominant history of FTLD) through to 4 (no family history of dementia). We also looked for mutations in each of the 5 disease-causing genes (MAPT, GRN, VCP, CHMP2B, and TARDP) and the FUS gene, known to cause motor neuron disease.
A total of 41.8% of patients had some family history (score of 1, 2, 3, or 3.5), although only 10.2% had a clear autosomal dominant history (score of 1). Heritability varied across the different clinical subtypes of FTLD with the behavioral variant being the most heritable and frontotemporal dementia–motor neuron disease and the language syndromes (particularly semantic dementia) the least heritable. Mutations were found in MAPT (8.9% of the cohort) and GRN (8.4%) but not in any of the other genes. Of the remaining patients without mutations but with a strong family history, 7 had pathologic confirmation, falling into 2 groups: type 3 FTLD-TDP without GRN mutations (6) and FTLD-UPS (1).
These findings show that frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is a highly heritable disorder but heritability varies between the different syndromes. Furthermore, while MAPT and GRN mutations account for a substantial proportion of familial cases, there are other genes yet to be discovered, particularly in patients with type 3 FTLD-TDP without a GRN mutation.
= behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia;
= corticobasal syndrome;
= frontotemporal lobar degeneration;
= logopenic/phonologic variant of primary progressive aphasia;
= motor neuron disease;
= progressive nonfluent aphasia;
= primary progressive aphasia;
= progressive supranuclear palsy;
= semantic dementia.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is the second most common cause of dementia in individuals under 65 years old and manifests as alterations in behavior, personality, or language secondary to degeneration of the frontal and/or temporal lobes. FTLD-TDP, the largest neuropathological subset of FTLD, is characterized by hyperphosphorylated, ubiquitinated TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43) inclusions. Mutations in progranulin (GRN), a neuroprotective growth factor, are one of the most common Mendelian genetic causes of FTLD-TDP. Moreover, a recent genome-wide association study (GWAS) identified multiple SNPs within the uncharacterized gene TMEM106B that significantly associated with FTLD-TDP, suggesting that TMEM106B genotype confers risk for FTLD-TDP. Indeed, TMEM106B expression levels, which correlate with TMEM106B genotype, may play a role in the pathogenesis of disease.
Since little is known about TMEM106B and its expression in human brain, we performed immunohistochemical studies of TMEM106B in postmortem human brain samples from normal individuals, FTLD-TDP individuals with and without GRN mutations, and individuals with other neurodegenerative diseases. We find that TMEM106B protein is cytoplasmically expressed in both histopathologically affected and unaffected areas of the brain by neurons, glia, and endothelial cells/pericytes. Furthermore, we demonstrate that TMEM106B expression may differ among neuronal subtypes. Finally, we show that TMEM106B neuronal expression is significantly more disorganized in FTLD-TDP cases with GRN mutations, compared to normal and disease controls, including FTLD-TDP cases without GRN mutations.
Our data provide an initial neuropathological characterization of the newly discovered FTLD-TDP-associated protein TMEM106B. In addition, we demonstrate that FTLD-TDP cases with GRN mutations exhibit a loss of neuronal TMEM106B subcellular localization, adding to evidence that TMEM106B and progranulin may be pathophysiologically linked in FTLD-TDP.
TMEM106B; Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Frontotemporal dementia; TDP-43; Progranulin; FTLD-TDP
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) 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 the second leading cause of dementia in individuals under age 65. In many patients, the predominant pathology includes neuronal cytoplasmic or intranuclear inclusions of ubiquitinated TAR DNA binding protein 43 (FTLDTDP). Recently, a genome-wide association study identified the first FTLD-TDP genetic risk factor, in which variants in and around the TMEM106B gene (top SNP rs1990622) were significantly associated with FTLD-TDP risk. Intriguingly, the most significant association was in FTLD-TDP patients carrying progranulin (GRN) mutations. Here we investigated to what extent the coding variant, rs3173615 (p.T185S) in linkage disequilibrium with rs1990622, affects progranulin protein (PGRN) biology and TMEM106B protein regulation.
First, we confirmed the association of TMEM106B variants with FTLD-TDP in a new cohort of GRN mutation carriers. We next generated and characterized a TMEM106B-specific antibody for investigation of this protein. Enzyme-linked immunoassay analysis of PGRN levels showed similar effects upon T185 and S185 TMEM106B overexpression. However, overexpression of T185 consistently led to higher TMEM106B protein levels than S185. Cycloheximide treatment experiments revealed that S185 degrades faster than T185 TMEM106B, potentially due to differences in N-glycosylation at residue N183. Together, our results provide a potential mechanism by which TMEM106B variants lead to differences in FTLD-TDP risk.
TMEM106B; frontotemporal dementia; progranulin; glycosylation
Mutations in C9ORF72 resulting in expanded hexanucleotide repeats were recently reported to be the underlying genetic abnormality in chromosome 9p-linked frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TAR DNA-binding protein of 43 kD (TDP-43) proteinopathy (FTLD-TDP), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and frontotemporal lobar degeneration with motor neuron disease (FTLD-MND). Several subsequent publications described the neuropathology as being similar to that seen in cases of FTLD-TDP and ALS without C9ORF72 mutations, except that cases with mutations have p62 and ubiquitin positive, TDP-43 negative inclusions in cerebellum, hippocampus, neocortex, and basal ganglia. The identity of this protein is as yet unknown, and its significance is unclear. With the goal of potentially uncovering the significance of these TDP-43 negative inclusions, we compared the clinical, pathologic, and genetic characteristics in 5 cases of FTLD-TDP and FTLD-MND with C9ORF72 mutations to 20 cases without mutations. We confirmed the apparent specificity of p62 positive, TDP-43 negative inclusions in cerebellum, hippocampus, cortex, and basal ganglia to FTLD with C9ORF72 mutations. p62 positive, TDP-43 negative inclusions in hippocampus correlated with hippocampal atrophy, but no additional correlations were uncovered. However, although ambiguity of TDP sub-typing has previously been reported in cases with C9ORF72 mutations, this is the first report to show that although most FTLD cases with C9ORF72 mutations were TDP type B, some of the pathologic characteristics in these cases were more similar to TDP types A and C than to TDP type B FTLD cases without mutations. These features include greater cortical and hippocampal atrophy, greater ventricular dilatation, more neuronal loss and gliosis in temporal lobe and striatum, and TDP-43 positive fine neuritic profiles in the hippocampus in FTLD cases with C9ORF72 mutations compared to FTLD-TDP type B cases without mutations, implying that the C9ORF72 mutation modifies the pathologic phenotype of FTLD-TDP type B.
C9ORF72; repeat expansion; p62; ubiquitin; TDP-43; FTLD; ALS
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease and is the second most common form of young onset dementia after Alzheimer's disease (AD). An autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance is present in around 25–50% of FTLD cases indicating a strong genetic component. Major pathogenic mutations of FTLD have been demonstrated independently in the progranulin (GRN) gene and the C9orf72 hexanucleotide expansion repeat. In this study we present a family that have been identified as carrying both a GRN Cys31fs mutation and the C9orf72 hexanucleotide expansion repeat.
In the present study we describe the clinical and genetic details of family members and pathological features of two family members that have come to post-mortem.
The mean age at disease onset was 57 years (48–61 years) and mean duration 4 years (2–7 years). The most common presenting syndrome was behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia. Brain imaging from available cases showed a symmetrical pattern of atrophy particularly affecting the frontal and temporal lobes. Pathologically two cases were classified as FTLD-TDP type A with TDP-43 positive inclusions, with additional p62-positive ‘star-like’ inclusions found in the hippocampal formation and cerebellum.
The type and distribution of the pathological lesions in these two cases were in keeping with FTLD cases carrying only the C9orf72 hexanucleotide repeat. However the driving force of the pathological process may be either pathogenic mutation or a combination of both converging on a singular mechanism.
C9orf72; FTLD; progranulin; TDP-43
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
Major psychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia and mood disorders have not been linked to a specific pathology, but their clinical features overlap with some aspects of the behavioral variant of frontotemporal lobar degeneration. Although the significance of pathological 43-kDa (transactivation response) DNA-binding protein (TDP-43) for frontotemporal lobar degeneration was appreciated only recently, the prevalence of TDP-43 pathology in patients with severe mental illness vs controls has not been systematically addressed.
To examine patients with chronic psychiatric diseases, mainlyschizophrenia, for evidence of neurodegenerative TDP-43 pathology in comparison with controls.
Prospective longitudinal clinical evaluation and retrospective medical record review, immunohistochemical identification of pathological TDP-43 in the central nervous system, and genotyping for gene alterations known to cause TDP-43 proteinopathies including the TDP-43 (TARDBP) and progranulin (GRN) genes.
University health system.
One hundred fifty-one subjects including 91 patients with severe mental illness (mainly schizophrenia) and 60 controls.
Main Outcome Measures
Clinical medical record review, neuronal and glial TDP-43 pathology, and TARDP and GRN genotyping status.
Significant TDP-43 pathology in the amygdala/periamygdaloid region or the hippocampus/transentorhinal cortex was absent in both groups in subjects younger than 65 years but present in elderly subjects (29% [25 of 86] of the psychiatric patients and 29% [10 of 34] of control subjects). Twenty-three percent (8 of 35) of the positive cases showed significant TDP-43 pathology in extended brain scans. There were no evident differences between the 2 groups in the frequency, degree, or morphological pattern of TDP-43 pathology. The latter included (1) subpial and subependymal, (2) focal, or (3) diffuse lesions in deep brain parenchyma and (4) perivascular pathology. A new GRN variant of unknown significance (c.620T>C, p.Met207Thr) was found in 1 patient with schizophrenia with TDP-43 pathology. No known TARDBP mutations or other variants were found in any of the subjects studied herein.
The similar findings of TDP-43 pathology in elderly patients with severe mental illness and controls suggest common age-dependent TDP-43 changes in limbic brain areas that may signify that these regions are affected early in the course of a cerebral TDP-43 multisystem proteinopathy. Finally, our data provide an age-related baseline for the development of whole-brain pathological TDP-43 evolution schemata.
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 clinically and pathologically heterogeneous syndrome, characterized by progressive decline in behaviour or language associated with degeneration of the frontal and anterior temporal lobes. While the seminal cases were described at the turn of the 20th century, FTLD has only recently been appreciated as a leading cause of dementia, particularly in patients presenting before the age of 65 years. Three distinct clinical variants of FTLD have been described: (i) behavioural-variant frontotemporal dementia, characterized by changes in behaviour and personality in association with frontal-predominant cortical degeneration; (ii) semantic dementia, a syndrome of progressive loss of knowledge about words and objects associated with anterior temporal neuronal loss; and (iii) progressive nonfluent aphasia, characterized by effortful language output, loss of grammar and motor speech deficits in the setting of left perisylvian cortical atrophy.
The majority of pathologies associated with FTLD clinical syndromes include either tau-positive (FTLD-TAU) or TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43)-positive (FTLD-TDP) inclusion bodies. FTLD overlaps clinically and pathologically with the atypical parkinsonian disorders corticobasal degeneration and progressive supranuclear palsy, and with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The majority of familial FTLD cases are caused by mutations in the genes encoding microtubule-associated protein tau (leading to FTLD-TAU) or progranulin (leading to FTLD-TDP). The clinical and pathologic heterogeneity of FTLD poses a significant diagnostic challenge, and in vivo prediction of underlying histopathology can be significantly improved by supplementing the clinical evaluation with genetic tests and emerging biological markers. Current pharmacotherapy for FTLD focuses on manipulating serotonergic or dopaminergic neurotransmitter systems to ameliorate behavioural or motor symptoms. However, recent advances in FTLD genetics and molecular pathology make the prospect of biologically driven, disease-specific therapies for FTLD seem closer than ever.
Background and Purpose
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) can be subdivided into those in which the abnormal protein is tau (FTLD-TAU), the TAR DNA binding protein 43 (FTLD-TDP) and the fused in sarcoma protein (FTLD-FUS). We have observed severe caudate atrophy at autopsy in FTLD-FUS, and hence we aimed to determine whether caudate atrophy on MRI is a feature that can distinguish FTLD-FUS from FTLD-TDP and FTLD-TAU.
From a cohort of 207 cases of FTLD we identified all cases of FTLD-FUS that had a volumetric antemortem head MRI (n=3). Caudate and frontal lobe volumes were measured in all three cases using atlas based parcellation and SPM5, and were compared to 10 randomly selected cases of FTLD-TDP and 10 randomly selected cases of FTLD-TAU. Total grey matter volumes were also calculated for all cases.
The FTLD-FUS cases had significantly smaller caudate volumes (p=0.02) yet similar frontal lobe grey matter volumes (p=0.12) compared to FTLD-TDP and FTLD-TAU. Caudate volumes when corrected for total grey matter volume (p=0.01) or frontal lobe grey matter volume (p=0.01) were significantly smaller in FTLD-FUS than FTLD-TDP and FTLD-TAU, and showed no overlap with the other two groups.
Caudate atrophy on MRI appears to be significantly greater in FTLD-FUS compared with FTLD-TDP and FTLD-TAU suggesting that severe caudate atrophy may be a useful clinical feature to predict FTLD-FUS pathology.
TDP-43; FTLD-TAU; FTLD-FUS; atlas based parcellation; caudate atrophy
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is a clinically, genetically and pathologically heterogeneous disorder. Within FTLD with ubiquitin-positive inclusions (FTLD-U), a new pathological subtype named FTLD-FUS was recently found with fused in sarcoma (FUS) positive, TDP-43-negative inclusions, and striking atrophy of the caudate nucleus. The aim of this study was to determine the frequency of FTLD-FUS in our pathological FTLD series, and to describe the clinical, neuroimaging and neuropathological features of FTLD-FUS, especially caudate atrophy. Demographic and clinical data collected prospectively from 387 patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) yielded 74 brain specimens. Immunostaining was carried out using a panel of antibodies, including AT-8, ubiquitin, p62, FUS, and TDP-43. Cortical and caudate atrophy on MRI (n = 136) was rated as normal, mild-moderate or severe. Of the 37 FTLD-U cases, 33 were reclassified as FTLD-TDP and four (0.11, 95%: 0.00–0.21) as FTLD-FUS, with ubiquitin and FUS-positive, p62 and TDP-43-negative neuronal intranuclear inclusions (NII). All four FTLD-FUS cases had a negative family history, behavioural variant FTD (bvFTD), and three had an age at onset ≤40 years. MRI revealed mild-moderate or severe caudate atrophy in all, with a mean duration from onset till MRI of 63 months (range 16–119 months). In our total clinical FTD cohort, we found 11 patients (0.03; 95% CI: 0.01–0.05) with bvFTD, negative family history, and age at onset ≤40 years. Caudate atrophy was present in 10 out of 136 MRIs, and included all four FUS-cases. The newly identified FTLD-FUS has a frequency of 11% in FTLD-U, and an estimated frequency of three percent in our clinical FTD cohort. The existence of this pathological subtype can be predicted with reasonable certainty by age at onset ≤40 years, negative family history, bvFTD and caudate atrophy on MRI.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD); Ubiquitin; p62; TDP-43; FUS
Corticobasal syndrome (CBS) is characterised by asymmetrical parkinsonism and cognitive impairment. The underlying pathology varies between corticobasal degeneration, progressive supranuclear palsy, Alzheimer’s disease, Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease and frontotemporal lobar degeneration sometimes in association with GRN mutations. A 61-year-old male underwent neurological examination, neuropsychological assessment, MRI, and HMPAO-SPECT at our medical centre. After his death at the age of 63, brain autopsy, genetic screening and mRNA expression analysis were performed. The patient presented with slow progressive walking disabilities, non-fluent language problems, behavioural changes and forgetfulness. His family history was negative. He had primitive reflexes, rigidity of his arms and postural instability. Later in the disease course he developed dystonia of his left leg, pathological crying, mutism and dysphagia. Neuropsychological assessment revealed prominent ideomotor and ideational apraxia, executive dysfunction, non-fluent aphasia and memory deficits. Neuroimaging showed symmetrical predominant frontoparietal atrophy and hypoperfusion. Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD)-TDP type 3 pathology was found at autopsy. GRN sequencing revealed a novel frameshift mutation c.314dup, p.Cys105fs and GRN mRNA levels showed a 50% decrease. We found a novel GRN mutation in a patient with an atypical (CBS) presentation with symmetric neuroimaging findings. GRN mutations are an important cause of CBS associated with FTLD-TDP type 3 pathology, sometimes in sporadic cases. Screening for GRN mutations should also be considered in CBS patients without a positive family history.
Corticobasal syndrome (CBS); Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD); Progranulin (GRN); TDP-43
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.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia in the elderly, whereas frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is the most frequent neurodegenerative disorder with a presenile onset. The two major neuropathologic hallmarks of AD are extracellular Amyloid beta (Aβ) plaques and intracellular neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs). Conversely, in FTLD the deposition of tau has been observed in a number of cases, but in several brains there is no deposition of tau but instead a positivity for ubiquitin. In some families these diseases are inherited in an auto-somal dominant fashion. Genes responsible for familial AD include the Amyloid Precursor Protein (APP), Presenilin 1 (PS1) and Presenilin 2 (PS2). The majority of mutations in these genes are often associated with a very early onset (40-50 years of age). Regarding FTLD, the first mutations described are located in the Microtubule Associated Protein Tau gene (MAPT). Tau is a component of microtubules, which represent the internal support structures for the transport of nutrients, vesicles, mitochondria and chromosomes within the cell. Mutations in MAPT are associated with an early onset of the disease (40-50 years), and the clinical phenotype is consistent with frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTD). Recently, mutations in a second gene, named progranulin (GRN), have been identified in some families with FTLD. Progranulin is expressed in neurons and microglia and displays anti-inflammatory properties. Nevertheless, it can be cleaved into granulins which, conversely, show inflammatory properties. The pathology associated with these mutations is most frequently characterized by the immunostaining of TAR DNA Binding Protein 43 (TDP-43), which is a transcription factor. The clinical phenotype associated with GRN mutations is highly heterogeneous, including FTD, Progressive Aphasia, Corticobasal Syndrome, and AD. Age at disease onset is variable, ranging from 45 to 85 years of age. The majority of cases of AD and FTLD are however sporadic, and likely several genetic and environmental factors contribute to their development. Concerning AD, it is known that the presence of the e4 allele of the Apolipoprotein E gene is a susceptibility factor, increasing the risk of about 4 fold. A number of additional genetic factors, including cytokines, chemokines, Nitric Oxide Synthases, contribute to the susceptibility for the disease. Some of them also influence the risk to develop FTLD. In this review, current knowledge on molecular mechanisms at the basis of AD and FTLD, as well as the role of genetics, will be presented and discussed.
Alzheimer's disease; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; mutation; genetics; amyloid; tau; TDP-43; inflammation; oxidative damage
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