Frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis are closely related clinical syndromes with overlapping molecular pathogenesis. Several families have been reported with members affected by frontotemporal dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or both, which show genetic linkage to a region on chromosome 9p21. Recently, two studies identified the FTD/ALS gene defect on chromosome 9p as an expanded GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat in a non-coding region of the chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 gene (C9ORF72). In the present study, we provide detailed analysis of the clinical features and neuropathology for 16 unrelated families with frontotemporal dementia caused by the C9ORF72 mutation. All had an autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance. Eight families had a combination of frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis while the other eight had a pure frontotemporal dementia phenotype. Clinical information was available for 30 affected members of the 16 families. There was wide variation in age of onset (mean = 54.3, range = 34–74 years) and disease duration (mean = 5.3, range = 1–16 years). Early diagnoses included behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia (n = 15), progressive non-fluent aphasia (n = 5), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (n = 9) and progressive non-fluent aphasia–amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (n = 1). Heterogeneity in clinical presentation was also common within families. However, there was a tendency for the phenotypes to converge with disease progression; seven subjects had final clinical diagnoses of both frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and all of those with an initial progressive non-fluent aphasia diagnosis subsequently developed significant behavioural abnormalities. Twenty-one affected family members came to autopsy and all were found to have transactive response DNA binding protein with Mr 43 kD (TDP-43) pathology in a wide neuroanatomical distribution. All had involvement of the extramotor neocortex and hippocampus (frontotemporal lobar degeneration-TDP) and all but one case (clinically pure frontotemporal dementia) had involvement of lower motor neurons, characteristic of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. In addition, a consistent and relatively specific pathological finding was the presence of neuronal inclusions in the cerebellar cortex that were ubiquitin/p62-positive but TDP-43-negative. Our findings indicate that the C9ORF72 mutation is a major cause of familial frontotemporal dementia with TDP-43 pathology, that likely accounts for the majority of families with combined frontotemporal dementia/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis presentation, and further support the concept that frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis represent a clinicopathological spectrum of disease with overlapping molecular pathogenesis.
frontotemporal dementia; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; C9ORF72, TDP-43
The hexanucleotide repeat in the chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72) gene was recently discovered as the pathogenic mechanism underlying many families with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and/or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) linked to chromosome 9 (c9FTD/ALS). We report the clinical, neuropsychological, and neuroimaging findings of a family with the C9ORF72 mutation and clinical diagnoses bridging the FTD, parkinsonism and ALS spectrum.
To characterize the antemortem characteristics of a family with c9FTD/ALS associated with the GGGGCC repeat expansion in C9ORF72
Tertiary care academic medical center.
The members of the family affected by the mutation with features of FTD and/or ALS.
Main Outcome Measures
Clinical, neuropsychological, and neuroimaging assessments.
All three examined subjects had the hexanucleotide expansion detected in C9ORF72. All had personality/behavioral changes early in the course of the disease. One case had levodopa-unresponsive parkinsonism, and one had ALS. MRI showed symmetric bilateral frontal, temporal, insular and cingulate atrophy.
This report highlights the clinical and neuroimaging characteristics of a family with c9FTD/ALS. Further studies are needed to better understand the phenotypical variability and the clinico-neuroimaging-neuropathologic correlations.
Numerous kindreds with familial frontotemporal dementia or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or both have been linked to chromosome 9 (c9FTD/ALS), and an expansion of the GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat in the non-coding region of chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72) was identified in the summer of 2011 as the pathogenic mechanism. An avalanche of papers on this disorder is in progress, and a relatively distinctive phenotype is taking form. In this review, we present an illustrative case and summarize the demographic, inheritance, clinical, and behavioral aspects and presumed pathologic underpinnings of c9FTD/ALS on the basis of the available data on more than 250 patients with frontotemporal lobar degeneration syndromes, parkinsonism, or ALS or a combination of these disorders.
Describe the clinical features of a Brazilian
C9orf72 frontotemporal dementia – amyotrophic
lateral sclerosis (FTD-ALS) kindred, and compare them to other reported
C9orf72 families and FTD-ALS causing mutations.
Report of a kindred.
Dementia center at an University hospital.
One kindred encompassing 3 generations.
The presence of a hexanucleotide (GGGGCC) expansion in
C9orf72 was confirmed by repeat-primed PCR and Southern
blot. The observed phenotypes were behavioral variant FTD and ALS with
dementia, with significant variability in age of onset and duration of
disease. Parkinsonian features with focal dystonia, visual hallucinations
and more posterior atrophy on neuroimaging than is typical for FTD were
bvFTD due to C9orf72 expansions displays some
phenotypic heterogeneity, and may be associated with hallucinations,
parkinsonism, focal dystonia, and posterior brain atrophy. Personality
changes may precede by many years the diagnosis of dementia and may be a
distinguishing feature of this mutation.
Two studies recently identified a GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat expansion in a non-coding region of the chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 gene (C9ORF72) as the cause of chromosome 9p-linked amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). In a cohort of 231 probands with ALS, we identified the C9ORF72 mutation in 17 familial (27.4 %) and six sporadic (3.6%) cases. Patients with the mutation presented with typical motor features of ALS, although subjects with the C9ORF72 mutation had more frequent bulbar onset, compared to those without this mutation. Dementia was significantly more common in ALS patients and families with the C9ORF72 mutation and was usually early-onset FTD. There was striking clinical heterogeneity among the members of individual families with the mutation. The associated neuropathology was a combination of ALS with TDP-ir inclusions and FTLD-TDP. In addition to TDP-43-immunoreactive pathology, a consistent and specific feature of cases with the C9ORF72 mutation was the presence of ubiquitin-positive, TDP-43-negative inclusions in a variety of neuroanatomical regions, such as the cerebellar cortex. These findings support the C9ORF72 mutation as an important newly-recognized cause of ALS, provide a more detailed characterization of the associated clinical and pathological features and further demonstrate the clinical and molecular overlap between ALS and FTD.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; frontotemporal dementia; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; C9ORF72; TDP-43; chromosome 9p
Chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9orf72) is an evolutionarily conserved protein with unknown function, expressed at high levels in the brain. An expanded hexanucleotide GGGGCC repeat located in the first intron of the C9orf72 gene represents the most common genetic cause of familial frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Previous studies by immunohistochemistry with two different anti-C9orf72 antibodies named sc-138763 and HPA023873 showed that C9orf72 is expressed chiefly in the cytoplasm of neurons, and is concentrated in the synaptic terminals in the brains of FTD/ALS with or without C9orf72 repeat expansion as well as those of controls. At present, a pathological role of C9orf72 in the process of neurodegeneration remains unknown.
Using immunohistochemistry we studied C9orf72 expression in the frontal cortex and the hippocampus of six Alzheimer's disease (AD) and 13 control cases, including ALS, Parkinson's disease, multiple system atrophy, and non-neurological cases.
The HPA023873 antibody showed a cross-reactivity to glial fibrillary acidic protein, and therefore stained intensely reactive astrocytes in AD and non-AD brains. Both sc-138763 and HPA023873 antibodies labeled the neuronal cytoplasm and the neuropil with variable intensities, and intensely stained a cluster of p62-negative, UBQLN1-positive swollen neurites, which were distributed in the CA1 region and the molecular layer in the hippocampus of both AD and non-AD brains. Most notably, both of these antibodies reacted strongly with dystrophic neurites accumulated on senile plaques in AD brains.
These results suggest a general role of C9orf72 in the process of neurodegeneration in a range of human neurodegenerative diseases.
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a common dementia syndrome in patients under the age of 65 years with many features overlapping with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The link between FTD and ALS has been strengthened by the discovery that a hexanucleotide repeat expansion in a non-coding region of the C9ORF72 gene causes both familial and sporadic types of these two diseases. As we begin to understand the pathophysiological mechanisms by which this mutation leads to FTD and ALS (c9FTD/ALS), new targets for disease-modifying therapies will likely be unveiled. Putative C9ORF72 expansion pathogenic mechanisms include loss of C9ORF72 protein function, sequestration of nucleic acid binding proteins due to expanded hexanucleotide repeats, or a combination of the two. New animal models and other research tools informed by work in other repeat expansion neurodegenerative diseases such as the spinocerebellar ataxias will help to elucidate the mechanisms of C9ORF72-mediated disease. Similarly, re-examining previous studies of drugs developed to treat ALS in light of this new mutation may identify novel FTD treatments. Ultimately, research consortiums incorporating animal models and well-characterized clinical populations will be necessary to fully understand the natural history of the c9FTD/ALS clinical phenotypes and identify biomarkers and therapeutic agents that can cure the most common form of genetically determined FTD and ALS.
It has been recently reported that a large proportion of patients with familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (familial ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) are associated with a hexanucleotide (GGGGCC) repeat expansion in the first intron of C9ORF72. We have assessed 1,757 Italian sporadic ALS cases, 133 from Sardinia, 101 from Sicily, and 1,523 from mainland Italy. Sixty (3.7%) of 1,624 mainland Italians and Sicilians and 9 (6.8%) of the 133 Sardinian sporadic ALS cases carried the pathogenic repeat expansion. None of the 619 regionally-matched control samples (1,238 chromosomes) carried the expansion. Twenty-five cases (36.2%) had behavioral FTD in addition to ALS. FTD or unspecified dementia was also detected in 19 pedigrees (27.5%) in first-degree relatives of ALS patients. Cases carrying the C9ORF72 hexanucleotide expansion survived one year less than cases who did not carry this mutation. In conclusion, we found that C9ORF72 hexanucloetide repeat expansions represents a sizeable proportion of apparent sporadic ALS in the Italian and Sardinian population, representing by far the commonest mutation in Italy and the second more common in Sardinia.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; C9ORF72; frontotemporal dementia; survival
The chromosome 9p21 amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-frontotemporal dementia (ALS-FTD) locus contains one of the last major unidentified autosomal dominant genes underlying these common neurodegenerative diseases. We have previously shown that a founder haplotype, covering the MOBKL2b, IFNK and C9ORF72 genes, is present in the majority of cases linked to this region. Here we show that there is a large hexanucleotide (GGGGCC) repeat expansion in the first intron of C9ORF72 on the affected haplotype. This repeat expansion segregates perfectly with disease in the Finnish population, underlying 46.0% of familial ALS and 21.1% of sporadic ALS in that population. Taken together with the D90A SOD1 mutation, 87% of familial ALS in Finland is now explained by a simple monogenic cause. The repeat expansion is also present in one third of familial ALS cases of outbred European descent making it the most common genetic cause of these fatal neurodegenerative diseases identified to date.
We aimed to accurately estimate the frequency of a hexanucleotide repeat expansion in C9orf72 that has been associated with a large proportion of cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD).
We screened 4448 patients diagnosed with ALS (El Escorial criteria) and 1425 patients with FTD (Lund-Manchester criteria) from 17 regions worldwide for the GGGGCC hexanucleotide expansion using a repeat-primed PCR assay. We assessed familial disease status on the basis of self-reported family history of similar neurodegenerative diseases at the time of sample collection. We compared haplotype data for 262 patients carrying the expansion with the known Finnish founder risk haplotype across the chromosomal locus. We calculated age-related penetrance using the Kaplan-Meier method with data for 603 individuals with the expansion.
In patients with sporadic ALS, we identified the repeat expansion in 236 (7·0%) of 3377 white individuals from the USA, Europe, and Australia, two (4·1%) of 49 black individuals from the USA, and six (8·3%) of 72 Hispanic individuals from the USA. The mutation was present in 217 (39·3%) of 552 white individuals with familial ALS from Europe and the USA. 59 (6·0%) of 981 white Europeans with sporadic FTD had the mutation, as did 99 (24·8%) of 400 white Europeans with familial FTD. Data for other ethnic groups were sparse, but we identified one Asian patient with familial ALS (from 20 assessed) and two with familial FTD (from three assessed) who carried the mutation. The mutation was not carried by the three Native Americans or 360 patients from Asia or the Pacific Islands with sporadic ALS who were tested, or by 41 Asian patients with sporadic FTD. All patients with the repeat expansion had (partly or fully) the founder haplotype, suggesting a one-off expansion occurring about 1500 years ago. The pathogenic expansion was non-penetrant in individuals younger than 35 years, 50% penetrant by 58 years, and almost fully penetrant by 80 years.
A common Mendelian genetic lesion in C9orf72 is implicated in many cases of sporadic and familial ALS and FTD. Testing for this pathogenic expansion should be considered in the management and genetic counselling of patients with these fatal neurodegenerative diseases.
Full funding sources listed at end of paper (see Acknowledgments).
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are part of a disease spectrum associated with TDP-43 pathology. Strong evidence supporting this is the existence of kindreds with family members affected by FTD, ALS or mixed features of FTD and ALS, referred to as FTD-MND. Some of these families have linkage to chromosome 9, with hexanucleotide expansion mutation in a noncoding region of C9ORF72. Discovery of the mutation defines c9FTD/ALS. Prior to discovery of mutations in C9ORF72, it was assumed that TDP-43 pathology in c9FTD/ALS was uniform. In this study, we examined the neuropathology and clinical features of 20 cases of c9FTD/ALS from a brain bank for neurodegenerative disorders. Included are six patients clinically diagnosed with ALS, eight FTD, one FTD-MND and four Alzheimer type dementia. Clinical information was unavailable for one patient. Pathologically, the cases all had TDP-43 pathology, but there were three major pathologic groups: ALS, FTLD-MND and FTLD-TDP. The ALS cases were morphologically similar to typical sporadic ALS with almost no extramotor TDP-43 pathology; all had oligodendroglial cytoplasmic inclusions. The FTLD-MND showed predominantly Mackenzie Type 3 TDP-43 pathology, and all had ALS-like pathology in motor neurons, but more extensive extramotor pathology, with oligodendroglial cytoplasmic inclusions and infrequent hippocampal sclerosis. The FTLD-TDP cases had several features similar to FTLD-TDP due to mutations in the gene for progranulin, including Mackenzie Type 1 TDP-43 pathology with neuronal intranuclear inclusions and hippocampal sclerosis. FTLD-TDP patients were older and some were thought to have Alzheimer type dementia. In addition to the FTD and ALS clinical presentations, the present study shows that c9FTD/ALS can have other presentations, possibly related to age of onset and presence of hippocampal sclerosis. Moreover, there is pathologic heterogeneity not only between ALS and FTLD, but within the FTLD group. Further studies are needed to address the molecular mechanism of clinical and pathological heterogeneity of c9FTD/ALS due to mutations in C9ORF72.
Frontotemporal degeneration (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are related but distinct neurodegenerative diseases. The identification of a hexanucleotide repeat expansion in a noncoding region of the chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72) gene as a common cause of FTD/ALS, familial FTD, and familial ALS marks the culmination of many years of investigation. This confirms the linkage of disease to chromosome 9 in large, multigenerational families with FTD and ALS, and it promotes deeper understanding of the diseases' shared molecular FTLD-TDP pathology. The discovery of the C9ORF72 repeat expansion has significant implications not only for familial FTD and ALS, but also for sporadic disease. Clinical and pathological correlates of the repeat expansion are being reported but remain to be refined, and a genetic test to detect the expansion has only recently become clinically available. Consequently, individuals and their families who are considering genetic testing for the C9ORF72 expansion should receive genetic counseling to discuss the risks, benefits, and limitations of testing. The following review aims to describe genetic counseling considerations for individuals at risk for a C9ORF72 repeat expansion.
Large expansions of a non-coding GGGGCC-repeat in the first intron of the C9orf72 gene are a common cause of both amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). G-rich sequences have a propensity for forming highly stable quadruplex structures in both RNA and DNA termed G-quadruplexes. G-quadruplexes have been shown to be involved in a range of processes including telomere stability and RNA transcription, splicing, translation and transport. Here we show using NMR and CD spectroscopy that the C9orf72 hexanucleotide expansion can form a stable G-quadruplex, which has profound implications for disease mechanism in ALS and FTD.
To determine the frequency of a hexanucleotide repeat expansion in C9ORF72, a gene of unknown function implicated in frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), in Australian FTD patient cohorts and to examine the clinical and neuropathologic phenotypes associated with this expansion.
We examined a clinically ascertained FTD cohort (n = 89) and a neuropathologically ascertained cohort of frontotemporal lobar degeneration cases with TDP-43 pathology (FTLD-TDP) (n = 22) for the C9ORF72 hexanucleotide repeat expansion using a repeat primed PCR assay. All expansion-positive patients were genotyped for rs3849942, a surrogate marker for the chromosome 9p21 risk haplotype previously associated with FTD and ALS.
The C9ORF72 repeat expansion was detected in 10% of patients in the clinically diagnosed cohort, rising to 29% in those with a positive family history of early-onset dementia or ALS. The prevalence of psychotic features was significantly higher in expansion-positive cases (56% vs 14%). In the pathology cohort, 41% of TDP-43-positive cases harbored the repeat expansion, and all exhibited type B pathology. One of the 17 expansion-positive probands was homozygous for the “nonrisk” G allele of rs3849942.
The C9ORF72 repeat expansion is a relatively common cause of FTD in Australian populations, and is especially common in those with FTD-ALS, psychotic features, and a strong family history. Detection of a repeat expansion on the 9p21 putative “nonrisk” haplotype suggests that not all mutation carriers are necessarily descended from a common founder and indicates that the expansion may have occurred on multiple haplotype backgrounds.
Numerous kindreds with familial frontotemporal dementia and/or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis have been linked to chromosome 9, and an expansion of the GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat in the non-coding region of chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 has recently been identified as the pathogenic mechanism. We describe the key characteristics in the probands and their affected relatives who have been evaluated at Mayo Clinic Rochester or Mayo Clinic Florida in whom the hexanucleotide repeat expansion were found. Forty-three probands and 10 of their affected relatives with DNA available (total 53 subjects) were shown to carry the hexanucleotide repeat expansion. Thirty-six (84%) of the 43 probands had a familial disorder, whereas seven (16%) appeared to be sporadic. Among examined subjects from the 43 families (n = 63), the age of onset ranged from 33 to 72 years (median 52 years) and survival ranged from 1 to 17 years, with the age of onset <40 years in six (10%) and >60 in 19 (30%). Clinical diagnoses among examined subjects included behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia with or without parkinsonism (n = 30), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (n = 18), frontotemporal dementia/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with or without parkinsonism (n = 12), and other various syndromes (n = 3). Parkinsonism was present in 35% of examined subjects, all of whom had behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia or frontotemporal dementia/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis as the dominant clinical phenotype. No subject with a diagnosis of primary progressive aphasia was identified with this mutation. Incomplete penetrance was suggested in two kindreds, and the youngest generation had significantly earlier age of onset (>10 years) compared with the next oldest generation in 11 kindreds. Neuropsychological testing showed a profile of slowed processing speed, complex attention/executive dysfunction, and impairment in rapid word retrieval. Neuroimaging studies showed bilateral frontal abnormalities most consistently, with more variable degrees of parietal with or without temporal changes; no case had strikingly focal or asymmetric findings. Neuropathological examination of 14 patients revealed a range of transactive response DNA binding protein molecular weight 43 pathology (10 type A and four type B), as well as ubiquitin-positive cerebellar granular neuron inclusions in all but one case. Motor neuron degeneration was detected in nine patients, including five patients without ante-mortem signs of motor neuron disease. While variability exists, most cases with this mutation have a characteristic spectrum of demographic, clinical, neuropsychological, neuroimaging and especially neuropathological findings.
frontotemporal dementia; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; motor neuron disease; TDP-43; neurogenetics; chromosome 9
To describe the phenotype of patients with C9FTD/ALS (C9ORF72) hexanucleotide repeat expansion.
A total of 648 patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD)–related clinical diagnoses and Alzheimer disease (AD) dementia were tested for C9ORF72 expansion and 31 carried expanded repeats (C9+). Clinical and neuroimaging data were compared between C9+ (15 behavioral variant FTD [bvFTD], 11 FTD–motor neuron disease [MND], 5 amyotrophic lateral sclerosis [ALS]) and sporadic noncarriers (48 bvFTD, 19 FTD-MND, 6 ALS).
All C9+ patients displayed clinical syndromes of bvFTD, ALS, or FTD-MND. At first evaluation, C9+ bvFTD patients had more delusions and greater impairment of working memory, but milder eating dysregulation compared to bvFTD noncarriers. C9+FTD-MND patients had a trend for longer survival and had an earlier age at onset than FTD-MND noncarriers. Voxel-based morphometry demonstrated more thalamic atrophy in FTD and FTD-MND carriers than in noncarriers.
Patients with the C9ORF72 hexanucleotide repeat expansion develop bvFTD, ALS, or FTD-MND with similar clinical and imaging features to sporadic cases. Other FTD spectrum diagnoses and AD dementia appear rare or absent among C9+ individuals. Longer survival in C9+ FTD-MND suggests slower disease progression and thalamic atrophy represents a novel and unexpected feature.
Numerous families exhibiting both frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) have been described, and although many of these have been shown to harbour a repeat expansion in C9ORF72, several C9ORF72-negative FTD-ALS families remain. We performed neuropathological and genetic analysis of a large European Australian kindred (Aus-12) with autosomal dominant inheritance of dementia and/or ALS. Affected Aus-12 members developed either ALS or dementia; some of those with dementia also had ALS and/or extrapyramidal features. Neuropathology was most consistent with frontotemporal lobar degeneration with type B TDP pathology, but with additional phosphorylated tau pathology consistent with corticobasal degeneration. Aus-12 DNA samples were negative for mutations in all known dementia and ALS genes, including C9ORF72 and FUS. Genome-wide linkage analysis provided highly suggestive evidence (maximum multipoint LOD score of 2.9) of a locus on chromosome 16p12.1–16q12.2. Affected individuals shared a chromosome 16 haplotype flanked by D16S3103 and D16S489, spanning 37.9 Mb, with a smaller suggestive disease haplotype spanning 24.4 Mb defined by recombination in an elderly unaffected individual. Importantly, this smaller region does not overlap with FUS. Whole-exome sequencing identified four variants present in the maximal critical region that segregate with disease. Linkage analysis incorporating these variants generated a maximum multipoint LOD score of 3.0. These results support the identification of a locus on chromosome 16p12.1–16q12.2 responsible for an unusual cluster of neurodegenerative phenotypes. This region overlaps with a separate locus on 16q12.1–q12.2 reported in an independent ALS family, indicating that this region may harbour a second major locus for FTD-ALS.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00401-013-1078-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Frontotemporal dementia; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Motor neuron disease; Corticobasal degeneration; Tau; TDP-43
Intronic expansion of the GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat within the C9ORF72 gene causes frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/motor neuron disease in both familial and sporadic cases. Initial reports indicate that this variant within the frontotemporal dementia/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis spectrum is associated with transactive response DNA binding protein (TDP-43) proteinopathy. The amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/motor neuron disease phenotype is not yet well characterized. We report the clinical and pathological phenotypes associated with pathogenic C9ORF72 mutations in a cohort of 563 cases from Northern England, including 63 with a family history of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. One hundred and fifty-eight cases from the cohort (21 familial, 137 sporadic) were post-mortem brain and spinal cord donors. We screened DNA for the C9ORF72 mutation, reviewed clinical case histories and undertook pathological evaluation of brain and spinal cord. Control DNA samples (n = 361) from the same population were also screened. The C9ORF72 intronic expansion was present in 62 cases [11% of the cohort; 27/63 (43%) familial, 35/500 (7%) cases with sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/motor neuron disease]. Disease duration was significantly shorter in cases with C9ORF72-related amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (30.5 months) compared with non-C9ORF72 amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/motor neuron disease (36.3 months, P < 0.05). C9ORF72 cases included both limb and bulbar onset disease and all cases showed combined upper and lower motor neuron degeneration (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Thus, clinically, C9ORF72 cases show the features of a relatively rapidly progressive, but otherwise typical, variant of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis associated with both familial and sporadic presentations. Dementia was present in the patient or a close family member in 22/62 cases with C9ORF72 mutation (35%) based on diagnoses established from retrospective clinical case note review that may underestimate significant cognitive changes in late disease. All the C9ORF72 mutation cases showed classical amyotrophic lateral sclerosis pathology with TDP-43 inclusions in spinal motor neurons. Neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions and glial inclusions positive for p62 immunostaining in non-motor regions were strongly over-represented in the C9ORF72 cases. Extra-motor pathology in the frontal cortex (P < 0.0005) and the hippocampal CA4 subfield neurons (P < 0.0005) discriminated C9ORF72 cases strongly from the rest of the cohort. Inclusions in CA4 neurons were not present in non-C9ORF72 cases, indicating that this pathology predicts mutation status.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; C9ORF72; dementia; neurodegeneration
An intronic expansion of a hexanucleotide GGGGCC repeat in the C9ORF72 gene has recently been shown to be an important cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) in familial and sporadic cases. The frequency has only been defined in a small number of populations where the highest sporadic rate was identified in Finland (21.1%) and the lowest in mainland Italy (4.1%). We examined the C9ORF72 expansion in a series of 146 Greek ALS cases, 10.95% (n = 16) of cases carried the pathological expansion defined as greater than 30 repeats. In the 10 familial ALS probands, 50% (n = 5) of them carried a pathologically large expansion. In the remaining 136 sporadic ALS cases, 11 were carriers (8.2%). None of the 228 Greek controls carried an expanded repeat. The phenotype of our cases was spinal (13/16) or bulbar (3/16) ALS, the familial cases were all spinal ALS and none of our cases had behavioral frontotemporal dementia. Expansions in the C9ORF72 gene therefore represent a common cause of ALS in Greece and this test will be diagnostically very important to implement in the Greek population. The frequency is higher than other populations with the exception of Finland and this may be due to Greece being a relatively isolated population.
ALS; C9ORF72; Expansion; Hexanucleotide; Greek population
A major recent discovery was the identification of an expansion of a non-coding GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat in the C9ORF72 gene in patients with frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Mutations in two other genes are known to account for familial frontotemporal dementia: microtubule-associated protein tau and progranulin. Although imaging features have been previously reported in subjects with mutations in tau and progranulin, no imaging features have been published in C9ORF72. Furthermore, it remains unknown whether there are differences in atrophy patterns across these mutations, and whether regional differences could help differentiate C9ORF72 from the other two mutations at the single-subject level. We aimed to determine the regional pattern of brain atrophy associated with the C9ORF72 gene mutation, and to determine which regions best differentiate C9ORF72 from subjects with mutations in tau and progranulin, and from sporadic frontotemporal dementia. A total of 76 subjects, including 56 with a clinical diagnosis of behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia and a mutation in one of these genes (19 with C9ORF72 mutations, 25 with tau mutations and 12 with progranulin mutations) and 20 sporadic subjects with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia (including 50% with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), with magnetic resonance imaging were included in this study. Voxel-based morphometry was used to assess and compare patterns of grey matter atrophy. Atlas-based parcellation was performed utilizing the automated anatomical labelling atlas and Statistical Parametric Mapping software to compute volumes of 37 regions of interest. Hemispheric asymmetry was calculated. Penalized multinomial logistic regression was utilized to create a prediction model to discriminate among groups using regional volumes and asymmetry score. Principal component analysis assessed for variance within groups. C9ORF72 was associated with symmetric atrophy predominantly involving dorsolateral, medial and orbitofrontal lobes, with additional loss in anterior temporal lobes, parietal lobes, occipital lobes and cerebellum. In contrast, striking anteromedial temporal atrophy was associated with tau mutations and temporoparietal atrophy was associated with progranulin mutations. The sporadic group was associated with frontal and anterior temporal atrophy. A conservative penalized multinomial logistic regression model identified 14 variables that could accurately classify subjects, including frontal, temporal, parietal, occipital and cerebellum volume. The principal component analysis revealed similar degrees of heterogeneity within all disease groups. Patterns of atrophy therefore differed across subjects with C9ORF72, tau and progranulin mutations and sporadic frontotemporal dementia. Our analysis suggested that imaging has the potential to be useful to help differentiate C9ORF72 from these other groups at the single-subject level.
frontotemporal dementia; magnetic resonance imaging; C9ORF72; tau; progranulin
Earlier reports of chromosome 9p-linked frontotemporal dementia (FTD) with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) kindreds observed psychosis as a prominent feature in some patients. Since the discovery of chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9orf72) hexanucleotide expansions as a cause of FTD and ALS, research groups and consortia around the world have reported their respective observations of the clinical features associated with this mutation. We reviewed the recent literature on C9orf72-associated FTD and ALS with focus on the neuropsychiatric features associated with this mutation, as well as the experience at University of California, San Francisco. The results and methodologies varied greatly across studies, making comparison of results challenging. Four reports found that psychotic features (particularly delusions) were frequent among mutation carriers, particularly when present early during the disease course, suggesting that this symptom category may be a marker for the mutation. Disinhibition and apathy were the most commonly reported early behavioral symptoms, but these may not be helpful in distinguishing carriers and noncarriers because of the symptoms' frequency in sporadic behavioral variant FTD. Other neuropsychiatric features were reported in different frequencies across studies, suggesting either a similar behavioral phenotype in carriers and noncarriers or reflecting the heterogeneity in clinical presentation of behavioral variant FTD due to C9orf72 expansions. Further studies with larger cohorts will be necessary to determine the neuropsychiatric presentation associated with this mutation.
The recently identified GGGGCC repeat expansion in the noncoding region of C9ORF72 is the most common pathogenic mutation in patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). We generated a human neuronal model and investigated the pathological phenotypes of human neurons containing GGGGCC repeat expansions. Skin biopsies were obtained from two subjects who had >1,000 GGGGCC repeats in C9ORF72 and their respective fibroblasts were used to generate multiple induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines. After extensive characterization, two iPSC lines from each subject were selected, differentiated into postmitotic neurons, and compared with control neurons to identify disease-relevant phenotypes. Expanded GGGGCC repeats exhibit instability during reprogramming and neuronal differentiation of iPSCs. RNA foci containing GGGGCC repeats were present in some iPSCs, iPSC-derived human neurons and primary fibroblasts. The percentage of cells with foci and the number of foci per cell appeared to be determined not simply by repeat length but also by other factors. These RNA foci do not seem to sequester several major RNA-binding proteins. Moreover, repeat-associated non-ATG (RAN) translation products were detected in human neurons with GGGGCC repeat expansions and these neurons showed significantly elevated p62 levels and increased sensitivity to cellular stress induced by autophagy inhibitors. Our findings demonstrate that key neuropathological features of FTD/ALS with GGGGCC repeat expansions can be recapitulated in iPSC-derived human neurons and also suggest that compromised autophagy function may represent a novel underlying pathogenic mechanism.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00401-013-1149-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
ALS; Autophagy; C9ORF72; FTD; Hexanucleotide repeats; iPSCs; Neurodegeneration; Neurons; p62; RAN translation; RNA foci
An expanded hexanucleotide repeat in the C9orf72 gene is the most common genetic cause of frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (c9FTD/ALS). We now report the first description of a homozygous patient and compare it to a series of heterozygous cases. The patient developed early-onset frontotemporal dementia without additional features. Neuropathological analysis showed c9FTD/ALS characteristics, with abundant p62-positive inclusions in the frontal and temporal cortices, hippocampus and cerebellum, as well as less abundant TDP-43-positive inclusions. Overall, the clinical and pathological features were severe, but did not fall outside the usual disease spectrum. Quantification of C9orf72 transcript levels in post-mortem brain demonstrated expression of all known C9orf72 transcript variants, but at a reduced level. The pathogenic mechanisms by which the hexanucleotide repeat expansion causes disease are unclear and both gain- and loss-of-function mechanisms may play a role. Our data support a gain-of-function mechanism as pure homozygous loss of function would be expected to lead to a more severe, or completely different clinical phenotype to the one described here, which falls within the usual range. Our findings have implications for genetic counselling, highlighting the need to use genetic tests that distinguish C9orf72 homozygosity.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00401-013-1147-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
C9orf72; ALS; FTD
Expanded GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeats in the non-coding region of the C9ORF72 gene was recently identified as being responsible for over 40% of the cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis associated with frontotemporal lobar degeneration, in various extrapyramidal syndromes including supranuclear gaze palsy and corticobasal degeneration, and in addition, has been found to be a rare genetic cause of isolated Parkinsonism. To our knowledge, there is no published data concerning the neuropsychological evaluation of patients diagnosed with idiopathic Parkinson’s disease related with C9ORF72 repeat expansions.
We report the results of the comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation in a newly described case in the literature (the sixth) of a patient presenting isolated idiopathic Parkinson’s disease associated with C9ORF72 repeat expansions.
The decrease in the patient’s prefrontal functions resulted in a slight decrease in global efficiency. These abnormalities did not appear to be different, with respect to the deficit observed and the intensity of the cognitive impairment, from those classically observed in cases of sporadic idiopathic Parkinson’s disease. Our patient also exhibited a significant impairment in visual gnosis.
If confirmed in other patients, visuoperceptive deficits in idiopathic Parkinson’s disease could represent a red flag that should prompt the clinician to perform addition diagnostic procedures. A thorough neuropsychological assessment may prove to be useful for detecting idiopathic Parkinson’s disease in patients who are suspected of having repeat abnormalities of C9ORF72 expansions.
C9ORF72 repeat expansion; Parkinson’s disease; Cognition
A hexanucleotide repeat expansion in the C9ORF72 gene has recently been shown to cause a large proportion of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and fronto-temporal dementia (FTD).
We screened 4,448 patients diagnosed with ALS and 1,425 patients diagnosed with FTD drawn from diverse populations for the hexanucleotide expansion using a repeat-primed PCR assay. ALS and FTD were diagnosed according to the El Escorial and Lund-Manchester criteria respectively. Familial status was based on self-reported family history of similar neurodegenerative diseases at the time of sample collection. Haplotype data of 262 patients carrying the expansion were compared with the known Finnish founder risk haplotype across the chromosomal locus. Age-related penetrance was calculated by the Kaplan-Meier method using data from 603 individuals carrying the expansion.
The mutation was observed among 7·0% (n = 236 of 3,377) of Caucasians, 4·1% (n = 2 of 49) of African-Americans, and 8·3% (n = 6 of 72) of Hispanic individuals diagnosed with sporadic ALS, whereas the rate was 6·0% (n = 59 of 981) among Caucasians diagnosed with sporadic FTD. Among Asians, 5·0% (n = 1 of 20) of familial ALS and 66·6% (n = 2 of 3) of familial FTD cases carried the repeat expansion. In contrast, mutations were not observed among patients of Native American (n = 3 sporadic ALS), Indian (n = 31 sporadic ALS, n = 31 sporadic FTD), and Pacific Islander (n = 90 sporadic ALS) ethnicity. All patients with the repeat expansion carried, either partially or fully, the founder haplotype suggesting that the expansion occurred on a single occasion in the past (~1,500 years ago). The pathogenic expansion was non-penetrant below 35 years of age, increasing to 50·0% penetrance by 58 years of age, and was almost fully penetrant by 80 years of age.
We confirm that a common single Mendelian genetic lesion is implicated in a large proportion of sporadic and familial ALS and FTD. Testing for this pathogenic expansion will be important in the management and genetic counseling of patients with these fatal neurodegenerative diseases.