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 (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
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
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.
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.
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.
Mutation in the progranulin gene (GRN) can cause frontotemporal dementia (FTD). However, it is unclear whether some rare FTD-related GRN variants are pathogenic and whether neurodegenerative disorders other than FTD can also be caused by GRN mutations.
To delineate the range of clinical presentations associated with GRN mutations and to define pathogenic candidacy of rare GRN variants.
Clinical and neuropathology dementia research studies at 8 academic centers.
Four hundred thirty-four patients with FTD, including primary progressive aphasia, semantic dementia, FTD/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), FTD/motor neuron disease, corticobasal syndrome/corticobasal degeneration, progressive supranuclear palsy, Pick disease, dementia lacking distinctive histopathology, and pathologically confirmed cases of frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitin-positive inclusions (FTLD-U); and 111 non-FTD cases (controls) in which TDP-43 deposits were a prominent neuropathological feature, including subjects with ALS, Guam ALS and/or parkinsonism dementia complex, Guam dementia, Alzheimer disease, multiple system atrophy, and argyrophilic grain disease.
Main Outcome Measures
Variants detected on sequencing of all 13 GRN exons and at least 80 base pairs of flanking introns, and their pathogenic candidacy determined by in silico and ex vivo splicing assays.
We identified 58 genetic variants that included 26 previously unknown changes. Twenty-four variants appeared to be pathogenic, including 8 novel mutations. The frequency of GRN mutations was 6.9% (30 of 434) of all FTD-spectrum cases, 21.4% (9 of 42) of cases with a pathological diagnosis of FTLD-U, 16.0% (28 of 175) of FTD-spectrum cases with a family history of a similar neurodegenerative disease, and 56.2% (9 of 16) of cases of FTLD-U with a family history.
Pathogenic mutations were found only in FTD-spectrum cases and not in other related neurodegenerative diseases. Haploinsufficiency of GRN is the predominant mechanism leading to FTD.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is 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
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.
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
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 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
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
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
To further characterize the neuropathology of the heterogeneous molecular disorder frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) with transactive response (TAR) DNA-binding protein of 43kDa (TDP-43) proteinopathy (FTLD-TDP).
We quantified the neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions (NCI), glial inclusions (GI), neuronal intranuclear inclusions (NII), dystrophic neurites (DN), surviving neurons, abnormally enlarged neurons (EN), and vacuoles in regions of the frontal and temporal lobe using a phosphorylation independent TDP-43 antibody in thirty-two cases of FTLD-TDP comprising sporadic and familial cases, with associated pathology such as hippocampal sclerosis (HS) or Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and four neuropathological subtypes using TDP-43 immunohistochemistry. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to compare differences between the various groups of cases.
These data from FTLD-TDP cases demonstrate quantitative differences in pathological features between: (1) regions of the frontal and temporal lobe, (2) upper and lower cortex, (3) sporadic and progranulin (GRN) mutation cases, (4) cases with and without AD or HS, and (5) between assigned subtypes.
The data confirm that the dentate gyrus is a major site of neuropathology in FTLD-TDP and that most laminae of the cerebral cortex are affected. GRN mutation cases are quantitatively different from sporadic cases while cases with associated HS and AD have increased densities of dystrophic neurites (DN) and abnormally enlarged neurons (EN) respectively. There is little correlation between the subjective assessment of subtypes and the more objective quantitative data.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration with transactive response (TAR) DNA-binding protein of 43kDa (TDP-43) proteinopathy (FTLD-TDP); Density; Neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions (NCI); Neuronal intranuclear inclusion (NII)
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 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.
Loss-of-function mutations in progranulin (GRN) cause ubiquitin- and TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43)-positive frontotemporal dementia (FTLD-U), a progressive neurodegenerative disease affecting ∼10% of early-onset dementia patients. Here we expand the role of GRN in FTLD-U and demonstrate that a common genetic variant (rs5848), located in the 3′-untranslated region (UTR) of GRN in a binding-site for miR-659, is a major susceptibility factor for FTLD-U. In a series of pathologically confirmed FTLD-U patients without GRN mutations, we show that carriers homozygous for the T-allele of rs5848 have a 3.2-fold increased risk to develop FTLD-U compared with homozygous C-allele carriers (95% CI: 1.50–6.73). We further demonstrate that miR-659 can regulate GRN expression in vitro, with miR-659 binding more efficiently to the high risk T-allele of rs5848 resulting in augmented translational inhibition of GRN. A significant reduction in GRN protein was observed in homozygous T-allele carriers in vivo, through biochemical and immunohistochemical methods, mimicking the effect of heterozygous loss-of-function GRN mutations. In support of these findings, the neuropathology of homozygous rs5848 T-allele carriers frequently resembled the pathological FTLD-U subtype of GRN mutation carriers. We suggest that the expression of GRN is regulated by miRNAs and that common genetic variability in a miRNA binding-site can significantly increase the risk for FTLD-U. Translational regulation by miRNAs may represent a common mechanism underlying complex neurodegenerative disorders.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is a 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
Ward et al. report retinal thinning in humans with progranulin mutations that precedes dementia onset, and an age-dependent retinal neurodegenerative phenotype in progranulin null mice. Nuclear depletion of TDP-43 precedes retinal neuronal loss and is accompanied by reduced GTPase Ran, with overexpression of Ran restoring nuclear TDP-43 and neuronal survival.
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is the most common cause of dementia in people under 60 yr of age and is pathologically associated with mislocalization of TAR DNA/RNA binding protein 43 (TDP-43) in approximately half of cases (FLTD-TDP). Mutations in the gene encoding progranulin (GRN), which lead to reduced progranulin levels, are a significant cause of familial FTLD-TDP. Grn-KO mice were developed as an FTLD model, but lack cortical TDP-43 mislocalization and neurodegeneration. Here, we report retinal thinning as an early disease phenotype in humans with GRN mutations that precedes dementia onset and an age-dependent retinal neurodegenerative phenotype in Grn-KO mice. Retinal neuron loss in Grn-KO mice is preceded by nuclear depletion of TDP-43 and accompanied by reduced expression of the small GTPase Ran, which is a master regulator of nuclear import required for nuclear localization of TDP-43. In addition, TDP-43 regulates Ran expression, likely via binding to its 3′-UTR. Augmented expression of Ran in progranulin-deficient neurons restores nuclear TDP-43 levels and improves their survival. Our findings establish retinal neurodegeneration as a new phenotype in progranulin-deficient FTLD, and suggest a pathological loop involving reciprocal loss of Ran and nuclear TDP-43 as an underlying mechanism.
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.