Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), a neurodegenerative disease primarily affecting the frontal and temporal lobes, is one of the most common types of dementia. While the majority of FTLD cases are sporadic, approximately 10–40% of patients have an inherited form of FTLD. Mutations in the progranulin gene (GRN) have recently been identified as a major cause of FTLD with ubiquitin positive inclusions (FTLD-U). Because over 70 disease-linked GRN mutations cause abnormal deficiencies in the production of PGRN, a protein that plays a crucial role in embryogenesis, cell growth and survival, as well as wound repair and inflammation, researchers now aim to design therapies that would increase PGRN levels in affected individuals, thereby alleviating the symptoms associated with disease. Several compounds and genetic factors, as well as PGRN receptors, have recently been identified because of their ability to regulate PGRN levels. Strict quality control measures are needed given that extreme PGRN levels at either end of the spectrum – too low or too high – can lead to neurodegeneration or cancer, respectively. The aim of this review is to highlight what is known regarding PGRN biology; to improve understanding of the mechanisms involved in regulating PGRN levels and highlight studies that are laying the groundwork for the development of effective therapeutic modulators of PGRN.
Progranulin; neurodegeneration; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; dementia; neurotrophic factors; sortilin
Progranulin (PGRN) encoded by the GRN gene, is a secreted glycoprotein growth factor that has been implicated in many physiological and pathophysiological processes. PGRN haploinsufficiency caused by autosomal dominant mutations within the GRN gene leads to progressive neuronal atrophy in the form of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). This form of the disease is associated with neuronal inclusions that bear the ubiquitinated TAR DNA Binding Protein-43 (TDP-43) molecular signature (FTLD-U). The neurotrophic properties of PGRN in vitro have recently been reported but the role of PGRN in neurons is not well understood. Here we document the neuronal expression and functions of PGRN in spinal cord motoneuron (MN) maturation and branching in vivo using zebrafish, a well established model of vertebrate embryonic development.
Whole-mount in situ hybridization and immunohistochemical analyses of zebrafish embryos revealed that zfPGRN-A is expressed within the peripheral and central nervous systems including the caudal primary (CaP) MNs within the spinal cord. Knockdown of zfPGRN-A mRNA translation mediated by antisense morpholino oligonucleotides disrupted normal CaP MN development resulting in both truncated MNs and inappropriate early branching. Ectopic over-expression of zfPGRN-A mRNA resulted in increased MN branching and rescued the truncation defects brought about by knockdown of zfPGRN-A expression. The ability of PGRN to interact with established MN developmental pathways was tested. PGRN over-expression was found to reverse the truncation defect resulting from knockdown of Survival of motor neuron 1 (smn1). This is involved in small ribonucleoprotein biogenesis RNA processing, mutations of which cause Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) in humans. It did not reverse the MN defects caused by interfering with the neuronal guidance pathway by knockdown of expression of NRP-1, a semaphorin co-receptor.
Expression of PGRN within MNs and the observed phenotypes resulting from mRNA knockdown and over-expression are consistent with a role in the regulation of spinal cord MN development and branching. This study presents the first in vivo demonstration of the neurotrophic properties of PGRN and suggests possible future therapeutic applications in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.
Progranulin (GRN) mutations causing haploinsufficiency are a major cause of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD-TDP). Recent discoveries demonstrating sortilin (SORT1) is a neuronal receptor for PGRN endocytosis and a determinant of plasma PGRN levels portend the development of enhancers targeting the SORT1–PGRN axis. We demonstrate the preclinical efficacy of several approaches through which impairing PGRN's interaction with SORT1 restores extracellular PGRN levels. Our report is the first to demonstrate the efficacy of enhancing PGRN levels in iPSC neurons derived from frontotemporal dementia (FTD) patients with PGRN deficiency. We validate a small molecule preferentially increases extracellular PGRN by reducing SORT1 levels in various mammalian cell lines and patient-derived iPSC neurons and lymphocytes. We further demonstrate that SORT1 antagonists and a small-molecule binder of PGRN588–593, residues critical for PGRN–SORT1 binding, inhibit SORT1-mediated PGRN endocytosis. Collectively, our data demonstrate that the SORT1–PGRN axis is a viable target for PGRN-based therapy, particularly in FTD-GRN patients.
Progranulin (PGRN) is a pleiotropic protein that has gained the attention of the neuroscience community with recent discoveries of mutations in the gene for PGRN that cause frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). Pathogenic mutations in PGRN result in null alleles, and the disease is likely the result of haploinsufficiency. Little is known about the normal function of PGRN in the central nervous system apart from a role in brain development. It is expressed by microglia and neurons. In the periphery, PGRN is involved in wound repair and inflammation. High PGRN expression has been associated with more aggressive growth of various tumors. The properties of full length PGRN are distinct from those of proteolytically derived peptides, referred to as granulins (GRNs). While PGRN has trophic properties, GRNs are more akin to inflammatory mediators such as cytokines. Loss of the neurotrophic properties of PGRN may play a role in selective neuronal degeneration in FTLD, but neuroinflammation may also be important. Gene expression studies suggest that PGRN is up-regulated in a variety of neuroinflammatory conditions, and increased PGRN expression by microglia may play a pivotal role in the response to brain injury, neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration.
Progranulin (PGRN), a widely secreted growth factor, is involved in multiple biological functions, and mutations located within the PGRN gene (GRN) are a major cause of frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43-positive inclusions (FLTD-TDP). In light of recent reports suggesting PGRN functions as a protective neurotrophic factor and that sortilin (SORT1) is a neuronal receptor for PGRN, we used a Sort1-deficient (Sort1−/−) murine primary hippocampal neuron model to investigate whether PGRN’s neurotrophic effects are dependent on SORT1. We sought to elucidate this relationship to determine what role SORT1, as a regulator of PGRN levels, plays in modulating PGRN’s neurotrophic effects.
As the first group to evaluate the effect of PGRN loss in Grn knockout primary neuronal cultures, we show neurite outgrowth and branching are significantly decreased in Grn−/− neurons compared to wild-type (WT) neurons. More importantly, we also demonstrate that PGRN overexpression can rescue this phenotype. However, the recovery in outgrowth is not observed following treatment with recombinant PGRN harboring missense mutations p.C139R, p.P248L or p.R432C, indicating that these mutations adversely affect the neurotrophic properties of PGRN. In addition, we also present evidence that cleavage of full-length PGRN into granulin peptides is required for increased neuronal outgrowth, suggesting that the neurotrophic functions of PGRN are contained within certain granulins. To further characterize the mechanism by which PGRN impacts neuronal morphology, we assessed the involvement of SORT1. We demonstrate that PGRN induced-outgrowth occurs in the absence of SORT1 in Sort1−/− cultures.
We demonstrate that loss of PGRN impairs proper neurite outgrowth and branching, and that exogenous PGRN alleviates this impairment. Furthermore, we determined that exogenous PGRN induces outgrowth independent of SORT1, suggesting another receptor(s) is involved in PGRN induced neuronal outgrowth.
Progranulin; Sortilin; Neuronal outgrowth; Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Neurotrophic factor
The most common inherited form of Fronto-Temporal Lobar Degeneration (FTLD) known stems from Progranulin (GRN) mutation, and exhibits TDP-43 plus ubiquitin aggregates. Despite the causative role of GRN haploinsufficiency in FTLD-TDP, the neurobiology of this secreted glycoprotein is unclear. Here, we examined PGRN binding to the cell surface. PGRN binds to cortical neurons via its C-terminus, and unbiased expression cloning identifies Sortilin (Sort1) as a binding site. Sort1−/− neurons exhibit reduced PGRN binding. In the CNS, Sortilin is expressed by neurons and PGRN is most strongly expressed by activated microglial cells after injury. Sortilin rapidly endocytoses and delivers PGRN to lysosomes. Mice lacking Sortilin have elevations in brain and serum PGRN levels of 2.5- to 5-fold. The 50% PGRN decrease causative in FTLD-TDP cases is mimicked in GRN+/− mice, and is fully normalized by Sort1 ablation. Sortilin-mediated PGRN endocytosis is likely to play a central role in FTLD-TDP pathophysiology.
The progranulin gene (PGRN) encodes a pleiotropic molecule with anti-inflammatory actions and neuronal protective effects. Accordingly, PGRN-deficient mice have been demonstrated to develop enhanced inflammation and progressive neurodegeneration. Loss of function mutations of the PGRN gene have been also reported to cause frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), a neurodegenerative disease leading to dementia generally in the presenium. Since neurodegeneration might be negatively impacted by chronic inflammation, the possible influence of PGRN defects on inflammatory pathways appears to be of great relevance for the understanding of neurodegeneration pathogenic processes in those patients. However, no data about the inflammatory profile of PGRN-defective subjects have been so far provided.
In this study, we analyzed serum levels of the pro-inflammatory mediators IL-6, TNF-α and IL-18 in FTLD patients with or without PGRN mutations, at both pre-symptomatic and symptomatic stages. We provide evidence that circulating IL-6 is increased in PGRN-mutated FTLD patients, as compared to both PGRN non-mutated FTLD patients and controls. In contrast, levels of IL-6 were not altered in asymptomatic subjects carrying the PGRN mutations. Finally, TNF-α and IL-18 serum levels did not differ among all groups of included subjects.
We conclude that the profile of circulating pro-inflammatory cytokines is altered in PGRN-related symptomatic FTLD. Thus, our findings point to IL-6 as a possible specific mediator and a potential therapeutic target in this monogenic disease, suggesting that an enhanced inflammatory response might be indeed involved in its progression.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that can be triggered through genetic or sporadic mechanisms. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have become a major therapeutic focus as their pervasive expression and powerful regulatory roles in disease pathogenesis become increasingly apparent. Here we examine the role of miRNAs in FTLD patients with TAR DNA-binding protein 43 pathology (FTLD-TDP) caused by genetic mutations in the progranulin (PGRN) gene.
Using miRNA array profiling, we identified the 20 miRNAs that showed greatest evidence (unadjusted P < 0.05) of dysregulation in frontal cortex of eight FTLD-TDP patients carrying PGRN mutations when compared to 32 FTLD-TDP patients with no apparent genetic abnormalities. Quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) analyses provided technical validation of the differential expression for 9 of the 20 miRNAs in frontal cortex. Additional qRT-PCR analyses showed that 5 out of 9 miRNAs (miR-922, miR-516a-3p, miR-571, miR-548b-5p, and miR-548c-5p) were also significantly dysregulated (unadjusted P < 0.05) in cerebellar tissue samples of PGRN mutation carriers, consistent with a systemic reduction in PGRN levels. We developed a list of gene targets for the 5 candidate miRNAs and found 18 genes dysregulated in a reported FTLD mRNA study to exhibit anti-correlated miRNA-mRNA patterns in affected cortex and cerebellar tissue. Among the targets is brain-specific angiogenesis inhibitor 3, which was recently identified as an important player in synapse biology.
Our study suggests that miRNAs may contribute to the pathogenesis of FTLD-TDP caused by PGRN mutations and provides new insight into potential future therapeutic options.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; TDP-43; microRNA; progranulin
Mutations in the progranulin (PGRN) gene, leading to haploinsufficiency, cause familial frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD-TDP), although the pathogenic mechanism of PGRN deficit is largely unknown. Allelic loss of PGRN was previously shown to increase the activity of cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) CDK6/pRb pathway in lymphoblasts expressing the c.709-1G>A PGRN mutation. Since members of the CDK family appear to play a role in neurodegenerative disorders and in apoptotic death of neurons subjected to various insults, we investigated the role of CDK6/pRb in cell survival/death mechanisms following serum deprivation.
We performed a comparative study of cell viability after serum withdrawal of established lymphoblastoid cell lines from control and carriers of c.709-1G>A PGRN mutation, asymptomatic and FTLD-TDP diagnosed individuals. Our results suggest that the CDK6/pRb pathway is enhanced in the c.709-1G>A bearing lymphoblasts. Apparently, this feature allows PGRN-deficient cells to escape from serum withdrawal-induced apoptosis by decreasing the activity of executive caspases and lowering the dissipation of mitochondrial membrane potential and the release of cytochrome c from the mitochondria. Inhibitors of CDK6 expression levels like sodium butyrate or the CDK6 activity such as PD332991 were able to restore the vulnerability of lymphoblasts from FTLD-TDP patients to trophic factor withdrawal.
The use of PGRN-deficient lymphoblasts from FTLD-TDP patients may be a useful model to investigate cell biochemical aspects of this disease. It is suggested that CDK6 could be potentially a therapeutic target for the treatment of the FTLD-TDP.
Progranulin (PGRN) is a secreted glycoprotein expressed in neurons and glia that is implicated in neuronal survival on the basis that mutations in the GRN gene causing haploinsufficiency result in a familial form of frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Recently, a direct interaction between PGRN and tumor necrosis factor receptors (TNFR I/II) was reported and proposed to be a mechanism by which PGRN exerts anti-inflammatory activity, raising the possibility that aberrant PGRN–TNFR interactions underlie the molecular basis for neuroinflammation in frontotemporal lobar degeneration pathogenesis. Here, we report that we find no evidence for a direct physical or functional interaction between PGRN and TNFRs. Using coimmunoprecipitation and surface plasmon resonance (SPR) we replicated the interaction between PGRN and sortilin and that between TNF and TNFRI/II, but not the interaction between PGRN and TNFRs. Recombinant PGRN or transfection of a cDNA encoding PGRN did not antagonize TNF-dependent NFκB, Akt, and Erk1/2 pathway activation; inflammatory gene expression; or secretion of inflammatory factors in BV2 microglia and bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMDMs). Moreover, PGRN did not antagonize TNF-induced cytotoxicity on dopaminergic neuroblastoma cells. Last, co-addition or pre-incubation with various N- or C-terminal-tagged recombinant PGRNs did not alter lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammatory gene expression or cytokine secretion in any cell type examined, including BMDMs from Grn+/− or Grn−/− mice. Therefore, the neuroinflammatory phenotype associated with PGRN deficiency in the CNS is not a direct consequence of the loss of TNF antagonism by PGRN, but may be a secondary response by glia to disrupted interactions between PGRN and Sortilin and/or other binding partners yet to be identified.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) with ubiquitin-positive, tau-negative inclusions, and linkage to chromosome 17 was recently found to be caused by mutations in the progranulin (PGRN) gene. In this study, we screened a group of 51 FTLD patients for PGRN mutations and identified a novel exon 6 splice donor site deletion (IVS6+5_8delGTGA) in 2 unrelated patients. This mutation displayed an altered splicing pattern generating 2 aberrant transcripts and causing frameshifts of the coding sequence, premature termination codons, and a near absence of PGRN mRNA from the mutated alleles most likely through nonsense-mediated decay. The subsequent PGRN haploinsufficiency is consistent with previously described PGRN mutations. We present a molecular characterization of the IVS6+5_8delGTGA mutation and also describe clinical and neuropathologic features from the 2 patients carrying this PGRN mutation. From the screening of these 51 FTLD patients, we could also identify the earlier reported mutation Gln130fs, and several coding sequence variants that are most likely nonpathogenic.
frontotemporal lobar degeneration; frontotemporal dementia; progranulin; ubiquitin; TDP-43
Recently, mutations in the progranulin (PGRN) gene were found to cause familial and apparently sporadic frontotemporal lobe dementia (FTLD). Moreover, missense changes in PGRN were identified in patients with motor neuron degeneration, a condition that is related to FTLD. Most mutations identified in patients with FTLD until now have been null mutations. However, it remains unknown whether PGRN protein levels are reduced in the central nervous system from such patients. The effects of PGRN on neurons also remain to be established. We report that PGRN levels are reduced in the cerebrospinal fluid from FTLD patients carrying a PGRN mutation. We observe that PGRN and GRN E (one of the proteolytic fragments of PGRN) promote neuronal survival and enhance neurite outgrowth in cultured neurons. These results demonstrate that PGRN/GRN is a neurotrophic factor with activities that may be involved in the development of the nervous system and in neurodegeneration.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is a common neurodegenerative disorder that predominantly affects individuals under the age of 65. It is known that the most common pathological subtype is FTLD with TAR DNA-binding protein 43 inclusions (FTLD-TDP). FTLD has a strong genetic component with about 50% of cases having a positive family history. Mutations identified in the progranulin gene (GRN) have been shown to cause FTLD-TDP as a result of progranulin haploinsufficiency. These findings suggest a progranulin-dependent mechanism in this pathological FTLD subtype. Thus, identifying regulators of progranulin levels is essential for new therapies and treatments for FTLD and related disorders. In this review, we discuss the role of genetic studies in identifying progranulin regulators, beginning with the discovery of pathogenic GRN mutations and additional GRN risk variants. We also cover more recent genetic advances, including the detection of variants in the transmembrane protein 106 B gene that increase FTLD-TDP risk presumably by modulating progranulin levels and the identification of a potential progranulin receptor, sortilin. This review highlights the importance of genetic studies in the context of FTLD and further emphasizes the need for future genetic and cell biology research to continue the effort in finding a cure for progranulin-related diseases.
progranulin; genetics; FTLD; TDP-43; TMEM106B; sortilin
Mutations in the progranulin gene (PGRN) have recently been identified as a cause of frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitin-positive inclusions (FTLD-U) in some families.
To determine whether there is a difference in the patterns of atrophy in cases with FTLD-U with and without a mutation in PGRN.
Case control study
Brain bank of a tertiary care medical center
All subjects that had screened positive for mutations in PGRN and had a volumetric MRI were identified (n=8, PGRN (+)). Subjects were then matched by clinical diagnosis to a group of eight subjects with a pathological diagnosis of FTLD-U that had screened negative for mutations in PGRN (PGRN (−)). All subjects were then age and gender-matched to a control subject.
Main outcome Measures
Voxel-based morphometry was used to assess the patterns of grey matter atrophy in the PGRN (+) and (−) groups compared to controls, and compared to each other.
The PGRN (+) group showed a widespread and severe pattern of grey matter loss predominantly affecting the frontal, temporal and parietal lobes. In comparison, the PGRN (−) group showed a less severe pattern of loss restricted mainly to the temporal and frontal lobes. On direct comparison the PGRN (+) group showed greater loss in the frontal and parietal lobes compared to the PGRN (−) group.
This study suggests that PGRN mutations may be associated with a specific and severe pattern of cerebral atrophy in subjects with FTLD-U.
Frontotemporal dementia; Voxel-based morphometry; Ubiquitin; Dentate; Progranulin
The aim of this study was to improve the neuropathologic recognition and provide criteria for the pathological diagnosis in the neurodegenerative diseases grouped as frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD); revised criteria are proposed. Recent advances in molecular genetics, biochemistry, and neuropathology of FTLD prompted the Midwest Consortium for Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration and experts at other centers to review and revise the existing neuropathologic diagnostic criteria for FTLD. The proposed criteria for FTLD are based on existing criteria, which include the tauopathies [FTLD with Pick bodies, corticobasal degeneration, progressive supranuclear palsy, sporadic multiple system tauopathy with dementia, argyrophilic grain disease, neurofibrillary tangle dementia, and FTD with microtubule-associated tau (MAPT) gene mutation, also called FTD with parkinsonism linked to chromosome 17 (FTDP-17)]. The proposed criteria take into account new disease entities and include the novel molecular pathology, TDP-43 proteinopathy, now recognized to be the most frequent histological finding in FTLD. TDP-43 is a major component of the pathologic inclusions of most sporadic and familial cases of FTLD with ubiquitin-positive, tau-negative inclusions (FTLD-U) with or without motor neuron disease (MND). Molecular genetic studies of familial cases of FTLD-U have shown that mutations in the progranulin (PGRN) gene are a major genetic cause of FTLD-U. Mutations in valosin-containing protein (VCP) gene are present in rare familial forms of FTD, and some families with FTD and/or MND have been linked to chromosome 9p, and both are types of FTLD-U. Thus, familial TDP-43 proteinopathy is associated with defects in multiple genes, and molecular genetics is required in these cases to correctly identify the causative gene defect. In addition to genetic heterogeneity amongst the TDP-43 proteinopathies, there is also neuropathologic heterogeneity and there is a close relationship between genotype and FTLD-U sub-type. In addition to these recent significant advances in the neuropathology of FTLD-U, novel FTLD entities have been further characterized, including neuronal intermediate filament inclusion disease. The proposed criteria incorporate up-to-date neuropathology of FTLD in the light of recent immunohistochemical, biochemical, and genetic advances. These criteria will be of value to the practicing neuropathologist and provide a foundation for clinical, clinico-pathologic, mechanistic studies and in vivo models of pathogenesis of FTLD.
Frontotemporal dementia; Semantic dementia; Progressive non-Xuent aphasia; Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Motor neuron disease; Tauopathy; Ubiquitin; TDP-43 proteinopathy; Progranulin; Valosin-containing protein; Charged multivesicular body protein 2B; Neuronal intermediate filament inclusion disease; Neuropathologic diagnosis
Frontotemporal lobar dementia (FTLD) is the most common cause of dementia in patients younger than 60 years of age, and causes progressive neurodegeneration of the frontal and temporal lobes usually accompanied by devastating changes in language or behavior in affected individuals. Mutations in the progranulin (GRN) gene account for a significant fraction of familial FTLD, and in the vast majority of cases, these mutations lead to reduced expression of progranulin via nonsense-mediated mRNA decay. Progranulin is a secreted glycoprotein that regulates a diverse range of cellular functions including cell proliferation, cell migration, and inflammation. Recent fundamental discoveries about progranulin biology, including the findings that sortilin and tumor necrosis factor receptor (TNFR) are high affinity progranulin receptors, are beginning to shed light on the mechanism(s) by which progranulin deficiency causes FTLD. This review will explore how alterations in basic cellular functions due to PGRN deficiency, both intrinsic and extrinsic to neurons, might lead to the development of FTLD.
Progranulin; Frontotemporal lobar dementia; Sortilin; Tumor necrosis factor receptor; TDP-43; Neuroinflammation
To assess the influence of rs5848 polymorphism in serum progranulin (PGRN) level in a cohort of subjects with Alzheimer and related dementias from a tertiary referral clinic.
Mutations in the GRN gene cause autosomal dominant frontotemporal dementia (FTD) with TDP-43 pathology (FTLD-TDP) through haploinsufficiency. It has recently been shown that homozygous carriers of the T-allele of rs5848 have an elevated risk developing FTD, and this polymorphism may play a role in the pathogenesis of other dementia by modifying progranulin level. We hypothesize that genotype of rs5848 may influence serum PGRN level in AD, FTD, and other dementias.
Blood samples were obtained from patients with cognitive impairment and dementia referred to a tertiary dementia clinic, as well as samples from a cohort of healthy controls. Serum PGRN level was measured using an ELISA assay, and rs5848 genotype was determined by a TaqMan assay.
We found that rs5848 SNP significantly influenced serum PGRN level, with TT genotype having the lowest levels, CC the highest. This relationship is observed in each of the subgroups. We also confirmed that GRN mutation carriers had significantly lower serum PGRN levels than all other groups.
The rs5848 polymorphism significantly influences serum PGRN with TT carriers having a lower level of serum PGRN then CT and CC carriers. This is consistent with the finding that miR-659 binding to the high risk T allele of rs5848 may augment translational inhibition of GRN and alter risk of FTD and possibly other dementias.
Frontotemporal Dementia; Progranulin; PGRN; GRN; rs5848; genetic polymorphism; biomarker
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is a highly heterogenous group of progressive neurodegenerative disorders characterized by atrophy of prefrontal and anterior temporal cortices. Recently, the research in the field of FTLD has gained increased attention due to the clinical, neuropathological, and genetic heterogeneity and has increased our understanding of the disease pathogenesis. FTLD is a genetically complex disorder. It has a strong genetic basis and 50% of patients show a positive family history for FTLD. Linkage studies have revealed seven chromosomal loci and a number of genes including MAPT, PGRN, VCP, and CHMB-2B are associated with the disease. Neuropathologically, FTLD is classified into tauopathies and ubiquitinopathies. The vast majority of FTLD cases are characterized by pathological accumulation of tau or TDP-43 positive inclusions, each as an outcome of mutations in MAPT or PGRN, respectively. Identification of novel proteins involved in the pathophysiology of the disease, such as progranulin and TDP-43, may prove to be excellent biomarkers of disease progression and thereby lead to the development of better therapeutic options through pharmacogenomics. However, much more dissections into the causative pathways are needed to get a full picture of the etiology. Over the past decade, advances in research on the genetics of FTLD have revealed many pathogenic mutations leading to different clinical manifestations of the disease. This review discusses the current concepts and recent advances in our understanding of the genetics of FTLD.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; genetic risk factors; microtubule-associated protein tau; mutations; progranulin; TDP-43
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TAR-DNA-binding protein inclusions (FTLD-TDP) is the most common pathological subtype of frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Mutations leading to a loss of function in the progranulin gene (PGRN) are the most common known cause of FTLD-TDP. In agreement with the proposed loss of function disease mechanism, several groups have reported decreased plasma levels of PGRN in patients carrying PGRN mutations compared to individuals without PGRN mutations. We propose that traumatic brain injury (TBI), an environmental factor, may also increase the risk of FTD by altering PGRN metabolism. TBI may lead to an increase in the central nervous system levels of microglial elastases, which proteolyze PGRN into proinflammatory products called granulins causing a reduction in PGRN levels. Hence, inhibiting microglial activation may have an important implication for the prevention of FTD in patients with TBI.
Frontotemporal dementia; Progranulin; Traumatic brain injury; Microglia; Elastase
To assess the relative frequency of unique mutations and their associated characteristics in 97 individuals with mutations in progranulin (GRN), an important cause of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD).
Participants and Design
A 46-site International Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration Collaboration was formed to collect cases of FTLD with TAR DNA-binding protein of 43-kDa (TDP-43)–positive inclusions (FTLD-TDP). We identified 97 individuals with FTLD-TDP with pathogenic GRN mutations (GRN+ FTLD-TDP), assessed their genetic and clinical characteristics, and compared them with 453 patients with FTLD-TDP in which GRN mutations were excluded (GRN− FTLD-TDP). No patients were known to be related. Neuropathologic characteristics were confirmed as FTLD-TDP in 79 of the 97 GRN+ FTLDTDP cases and all of the GRN− FTLD-TDP cases.
Age at onset of FTLD was younger in patients with GRN+ FTLD-TDP vs GRN− FTLD-TDP (median, 58.0 vs 61.0 years; P<.001), as was age at death (median, 65.5 vs 69.0 years; P<.001). Concomitant motor neuron disease was much less common in GRN+ FTLDTDP vs GRN− FTLD-TDP (5.4% vs 26.3%; P<.001). Fifty different GRN mutations were observed, including 2 novel mutations: c.139delG (p.D47TfsX7) and c.378C>A (p.C126X). The 2 most common GRN mutations were c.1477C>T (p.R493X, found in 18 patients, representing 18.6% of GRN cases) and c.26C>A (p.A9D, found in 6 patients, representing 6.2% of cases). Patients with the c.1477C>T mutation shared a haplotype on chromosome 17; clinically, they resembled patients with other GRN mutations. Patients with the c.26C>A mutation appeared to have a younger age at onset of FTLD and at death and more parkinsonian features than those with other GRN mutations.
GRN+ FTLD-TDP differs in key features from GRN− FTLD-TDP.
TMEM106B is a transmembrane glycoprotein of unknown function located within endosome/lysosome compartments expressed ubiquitously in various cell types. Previously, the genome-wide association study (GWAS) identified a significant association of TMEM106B single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with development of frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitinated TAR DNA-binding protein-43 (TDP-43)-positive inclusions (FTLD-TDP), particularly in the patients exhibiting the progranulin (PGRN) gene (GRN) mutations. Recent studies indicate that TMEM106B plays a pathological role in various neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, at present, the precise levels of TMEM106B expression in AD brains remain unknown.
By quantitative reverse transcription (RT)-PCR (qPCR), western blot and immunohistochemistry, we studied TMEM106B and PGRN expression levels in a series of AD and control brains, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, multiple system atrophy and non-neurological cases.
In AD brains, TMEM106B mRNA and protein levels were significantly reduced, whereas PGRN mRNA levels were elevated, compared with the levels in non-AD brains. In all brains, TMEM106B was expressed in the majority of cortical neurons, hippocampal neurons, and some populations of oligodendrocytes, reactive astrocytes and microglia with the location in the cytoplasm. In AD brains, surviving neurons expressed intense TMEM106B immunoreactivity, while senile plaques, neurofibrillary tangles and the perivascular neuropil, almost devoid of TMEM106B, intensely expressed PGRN.
We found an inverse relationship between TMEM106B (downregulation) and PGRN (upregulation) expression levels in AD brains, suggesting a key role of TMEM106B in the pathological processes of AD.
Frontotemporal dementia with ubiquitin-positive inclusions (FTLD-U) can be caused by mutations in the progranulin gene (GRN). Progranulin (PGRN) is a cysteine-rich growth factor, which is proteolytically cleaved by elastase to produce several granulins (GRNs). All FTLD-U mutations in GRN characterized to date result in reduced secreted PGRN protein. We recently reported a Spanish family with progressive nonfluent aphasia and dementia in which a novel C521Y mutation segregates with disease. A second cysteine mutation (C139R) has also been reported to be disease specific. Allele-specific mRNA expression assays in brain reveal that the C521Y mutant allele is expressed at similar levels to the wild-type allele. Furthermore, plasma PGRN levels in C521Y carriers are comparable to non-carrier family relatives, suggesting that the mutation does not affect PGRN protein expression and secretion in vivo. Despite normal PGRN levels C521Y and C139R mutant GRNs show reduced neurite growth stimulating activity in vitro. Further study revealed that these mutations also cause impaired cleavage of PGRN by elastase. Our data suggest that these mutations affect the function of full-length PGRN as well as elastase cleavage of PGRN into GRNs, leading to neurodegeneration.
progranulin; granulin; FTD; elastase; neurite outgrowth; neuronal survival
The essential role of progranulin (PGRN) as a neurotrophic factor has been demonstrated by the discovery that haploinsufficiency due to GRN gene mutations causes frontotemporal lobar dementia. In addition to neurons, microglia in vivo express PGRN, but little is known about the regulation of PGRN expression by microglia.
In the current study, we examined the regulation of expression and function of PGRN, its proteolytic enzyme macrophage elastase (MMP-12), as well as the inhibitor of PGRN proteolysis, secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor (SLPI), in human CNS cells.
Cultures of primary human microglia and astrocytes were stimulated with the TLR ligands (LPS or poly IC), Th1 cytokines (IL-1/IFNγ), or Th2 cytokines (IL-4, IL-13). Results were analyzed by Q-PCR, immunoblotting or ELISA. The roles of MMP-12 and SLPI in PGRN cleavage were also examined.
Unstimulated microglia produced nanogram levels of PGRN, and PGRN release from microglia was suppressed by the TLR ligands or IL-1/IFNγ, but increased by IL-4 or IL-13. Unexpectedly, while astrocytes stimulated with proinflammatory factors released large amounts of SLPI, none were detected in microglial cultures. We also identified MMP-12 as a PGRN proteolytic enzyme, and SLPI as an inhibitor of MMP-12-induced PGRN proteolysis. Experiments employing PGRN siRNA demonstrated that microglial PGRN was involved in the cytokine and chemokine production following TLR3/4 activation, with its effect on TNFα being the most conspicuous.
Our study is the first detailed examination of PGRN in human microglia. Our results establish microglia as a significant source of PGRN, and MMP-12 and SLPI as modulators of PGRN proteolysis. Negative and positive regulation of microglial PGRN release by the proinflammatory/Th1 and the Th2 stimuli, respectively, suggests a fundamentally different aspect of PGRN regulation compared to other known microglial activation products. Microglial PGRN appears to function as an endogenous modulator of innate immune responses.
Familial autosomal dominant frontotemporal dementia with ubiquitin-positive, tau-negative inclusions in the brain linked to 17q21-22 recently has been reported to carry null mutations in the progranulin gene (PGRN). Hereditary dysphasic disinhibition dementia (HDDD) is a frontotemporal dementia with prominent changes in behavior and language deficits. A previous study found significant linkage to chromosome 17 in a HDDD family (HDDD2), but no mutation in the MAPT gene. Longitudinal follow-up has enabled us to identify new cases and to further characterize the dementia in this family. The goals of this study were to develop research criteria to classify the different clinical expressions of dementia observed in this large kindred, to identify the causal mutation in affected individuals and correlate this with phenotypic characteristics in this pedigree, and to assess the neuropathological characteristics using immunohistochemical techniques.
In this study we describe a detailed clinical, pathological and mutation analysis of the HDDD2 kindred.
Neuropathologically, HDDD2 represents a familial frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitin-positive, tau-negative inclusions (FTLD-U). We developed research classification criteria and identified three distinct diagnostic thresholds, which helped localize the disease locus. The chromosomal region with the strongest evidence of linkage lies within the minimum critical region for FTLD-U. Sequencing of each exon of the PGRN gene led to the identification of a novel missense mutation, Ala-9 Asp, within the signal peptide.
HDDD2 is an FTLD-U caused by a missense mutation in the PGRN gene that cosegregates with the disease and with the disease haplotype in at-risk individuals. This mutation is the first reported pathogenic missense mutation in the signal peptide of the PGRN gene causing FTLD-U. In light of the previous reports of null mutations and its position in the gene, two possible pathological mechanisms are proposed: (1) the protein may accumulate within the endoplasmic reticulum due to inefficient secretion; and (2) mutant RNA may have a lower expression because of degradation via nonsense-mediated decay.
Haploinsufficiency of Progranulin (PGRN), a gene encoding a secreted glycoprotein, is a major cause of frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitin (FTLD-U) positive inclusions. Single nucleotide polymorphisms in the TMEM106B gene were recently discovered as a risk factor for FTLD-U, especially in patients with PGRN mutations. TMEM106B is also associated with cognitive impairment in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients. Despite these studies, little is known about TMEM106B at molecular and cellular levels and how TMEM106B contributes to FTLD. Here, we show that TMEM106B is localized in the late endosome/lysosome compartments and TMEM106B levels are regulated by lysosomal activities. Ectopic expression of TMEM106B induces morphologic changes of lysosome compartments and delays the degradation of endocytic cargoes by the endolysosomal pathway. Furthermore, overexpression of TMEM106B correlates with elevated levels of PGRN, possibly by attenuating lysosomal degradation of PGRN. These results shed light on the cellular functions of TMEM106B and the roles of TMEM106B in the pathogenesis of FTLD-U with PGRN mutations.