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1.  Mild Parkinsonian Signs in the Elderly – Is There an Association with PD? Crossectional Findings in 992 Individuals 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92878.
Mild parkinsonian signs (MPS) are common in the elderly population, and have been associated with vascular diseases, mild cognitive impairment and dementia; however their relation to Parkinson's disease (PD) is unclear. Hypothesizing that individuals with MPS may reflect a pre-stage of PD, i.e. a stage in which the nigrostriatal system is already affected although to a milder degree than at the time of PD diagnosis, aim of this study was to evaluate the similarities between MPS and PD.
The TREND study is a prospective cross-sectional cohort study in individuals >50 years with biennial assessments designed to identify markers for an earlier diagnosis of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. For this substudy 992 individuals were included for analyses (892 controls, 73 MPS individuals, 27 PD patients). Parameters defining risk of PD (sex, age, positive family history), prodromal markers (hyposmia, REM sleep behavior disorder, depression and autonomic failure) as well as quantitative fine motor, axial motor and cognitive parameters were compared between the three cohorts.
As expected, PD patients differed from controls with regard to 12 of 15 of the assessed parameters. MPS individuals differed significantly from controls in 12 of the PD-associated parameters, but differed from PD only in 5 parameters.
This study shows that individuals with MPS share many prodromal and clinical markers of PD with PD patients, implying that either a common dynamic process or similar constitutional factors occur in MPS individuals and PD patients.
PMCID: PMC3968033  PMID: 24675747
2.  A pathway-based analysis provides additional support for an immune-related genetic susceptibility to Parkinson's disease 
Holmans, Peter | Moskvina, Valentina | Jones, Lesley | Sharma, Manu | Vedernikov, Alexey | Buchel, Finja | Sadd, Mohamad | Bras, Jose M. | Bettella, Francesco | Nicolaou, Nayia | Simón-Sánchez, Javier | Mittag, Florian | Gibbs, J. Raphael | Schulte, Claudia | Durr, Alexandra | Guerreiro, Rita | Hernandez, Dena | Brice, Alexis | Stefánsson, Hreinn | Majamaa, Kari | Gasser, Thomas | Heutink, Peter | Wood, Nicholas W. | Martinez, Maria | Singleton, Andrew B. | Nalls, Michael A. | Hardy, John | Morris, Huw R. | Williams, Nigel M. | Arepalli, Sampath | Barker, Roger | Barrett, Jeffrey | Ben-Shlomo, Yoav | Berendse, Henk W. | Berg, Daniela | Bhatia, Kailash | de Bie, Rob M.A. | Biffi, Alessandro | Bloem, Bas | Brice, Alexis | Bochdanovits, Zoltan | Bonin, Michael | Bras, Jose M. | Brockmann, Kathrin | Brooks, Janet | Burn, David J. | Charlesworth, Gavin | Chen, Honglei | Chinnery, Patrick F. | Chong, Sean | Clarke, Carl E. | Cookson, Mark R. | Cooper, Jonathan M. | Corvol, Jen-Christophe | Counsell, Carl | Damier, Philippe | Dartigues, Jean Francois | Deloukas, Panagiotis | Deuschl, Günther | Dexter, David T. | van Dijk, Karin D. | Dillman, Allissa | Durif, Frank | Durr, Alexandra | Edkins, Sarah | Evans, Jonathan R. | Foltynie, Thomas | Gao, Jianjun | Gardner, Michelle | Gasser, Thomas | Gibbs, J. Raphael | Goate, Alison | Gray, Emma | Guerreiro, Rita | Gústafsson, Ómar | Hardy, John | Harris, Clare | Hernandez, Dena G. | Heutink, Peter | van Hilten, Jacobus J. | Hofman, Albert | Hollenbeck, Albert | Holmans, Peter | Holton, Janice | Hu, Michele | Huber, Heiko | Hudson, Gavin | Hunt, Sarah E. | Huttenlocher, Johanna | Illig, Thomas | Langford, Cordelia | Lees, Andrew | Lesage, Suzanne | Lichtner, Peter | Limousin, Patricia | Lopez, Grisel | Lorenz, Delia | Martinez, Maria | McNeill, Alisdair | Moorby, Catriona | Moore, Matthew | Morris, Huw | Morrison, Karen E. | Moskvina, Valentina | Mudanohwo, Ese | Nalls, Michael A. | Pearson, Justin | Perlmutter, Joel S. | Pétursson, Hjörvar | Plagnol, Vincent | Pollak, Pierre | Post, Bart | Potter, Simon | Ravina, Bernard | Revesz, Tamas | Riess, Olaf | Rivadeneira, Fernando | Rizzu, Patrizia | Ryten, Mina | Saad, Mohamad | Sawcer, Stephen | Schapira, Anthony | Scheffer, Hans | Sharma, Manu | Shaw, Karen | Sheerin, Una-Marie | Shoulson, Ira | Schulte, Claudia | Sidransky, Ellen | Simón-Sánchez, Javier | Singleton, Andrew B. | Smith, Colin | Stefánsson, Hreinn | Stefánsson, Kári | Steinberg, Stacy | Stockton, Joanna D. | Sveinbjornsdottir, Sigurlaug | Talbot, Kevin | Tanner, Carlie M. | Tashakkori-Ghanbaria, Avazeh | Tison, François | Trabzuni, Daniah | Traynor, Bryan J. | Uitterlinden, André G. | Velseboer, Daan | Vidailhet, Marie | Walker, Robert | van de Warrenburg, Bart | Wickremaratchi, Mirdhu | Williams, Nigel | Williams-Gray, Caroline H. | Winder-Rhodes, Sophie | Wood, Nicholas
Human Molecular Genetics  2012;22(5):1039-1049.
Parkinson's disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disease affecting 1–2% in people >60 and 3–4% in people >80. Genome-wide association (GWA) studies have now implicated significant evidence for association in at least 18 genomic regions. We have studied a large PD-meta analysis and identified a significant excess of SNPs (P < 1 × 10−16) that are associated with PD but fall short of the genome-wide significance threshold. This result was independent of variants at the 18 previously implicated regions and implies the presence of additional polygenic risk alleles. To understand how these loci increase risk of PD, we applied a pathway-based analysis, testing for biological functions that were significantly enriched for genes containing variants associated with PD. Analysing two independent GWA studies, we identified that both had a significant excess in the number of functional categories enriched for PD-associated genes (minimum P = 0.014 and P = 0.006, respectively). Moreover, 58 categories were significantly enriched for associated genes in both GWA studies (P < 0.001), implicating genes involved in the ‘regulation of leucocyte/lymphocyte activity’ and also ‘cytokine-mediated signalling’ as conferring an increased susceptibility to PD. These results were unaltered by the exclusion of all 178 genes that were present at the 18 genomic regions previously reported to be strongly associated with PD (including the HLA locus). Our findings, therefore, provide independent support to the strong association signal at the HLA locus and imply that the immune-related genetic susceptibility to PD is likely to be more widespread in the genome than previously appreciated.
PMCID: PMC3561909  PMID: 23223016
3.  Comparable Autoantibody Serum Levels against Amyloid- and Inflammation-Associated Proteins in Parkinson’s Disease Patients and Controls 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88604.
Naturally occurring autoantibodies (NAbs) against a number of potentially disease-associated cellular proteins, including Amyloid-beta1–42 (Abeta1–42), Alpha-synuclein (Asyn), myelin basic protein (MBP), myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG), and S100 calcium binding protein B (S100B) have been suggested to be associated with neurodegenerative disorders, in particular Alzheimer’s (AD) and Parkinson’s disease (PD). Whereas the (reduced) occurrence of specific NAbs in AD is widely accepted, previous literature examining the relation of these NAb titres between PD patients and controls, as well as comparing these levels with demographic and clinical parameters in PD patients have produced inconsistent findings. We therefore aimed, in a cross-sectional approach, to determine serum titres of the above NAbs in a cohort of 93 PD patients (31 of them demented) and 194 controls. Levels were correlated with demographic and clinical variables, cerebrospinal fluid Abeta1–42, total tau and phospho-tau levels, as well as with single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of genes which either have been reported to influence the immune system, the amyloid cascade or the occurrence of PD (ApoE, GSK3B, HLA-DRA, HSPA5, SNCA, and STK39). The investigated NAb titres were neither significantly associated with the occurrence of PD, nor with demographic and clinical parameters, neurodegenerative markers or genetic variables. These results argue against a major potential of blood-borne parameters of the adaptive immune system to serve as trait or state markers in PD.
PMCID: PMC3931625  PMID: 24586351
4.  Clinical Characteristics with an Impact on ADL Functions of PD Patients with Cognitive Impairment Indicative of Dementia 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82902.
Dementia in Parkinson’s disease (PD) is defined as cognitive decline severe enough to affect activities of daily living function (ADL). The aim of our exploratory study was to compare two groups of PD patients. Both groups had cognitive deficits severe enough to justify diagnosis of dementia, but they differed according to caregivers’ rating on ADL dysfunction. Parameters which differed between the two groups were interpreted to affect the caregivers’ perception of ADL dysfunction in PD patients with cognitive impairment indicative of Parkinson’s disease dementia.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Thirty of 131 Parkinson’s disease patients fulfilled the Movement Disorders Society Task Force – recommended, cognitive Level-I-criteria for dementia. According to standardized caregiver ratings, volunteers were grouped into 18 patients with (ADL-) and 12 without instrumental activities of daily living dysfunction (ADL+). Caregiver activities of daily living function ratings closely correlated with self-estimates of patients and those of physician (p<0.001). ADL- patients performed worse on tests assessing visual-construction (p<0.05) and attention (p=0.03) than ADL+ patients. Moreover, the postural instability and gait disorder subtype was more frequent in ADL- patients (p=0.009). ADL- patients tended to have more communication problems (p=0.05), more anxiety (p=0.05) and showed a tendency to be treated more often with neuroleptics (p=0.049) than ADL+.
Results indicate that worse attention, visual-construction abilities, the postural instability and gait disorder subtype, communication problems, medication and presence of anxiety are related to activities of daily living dysfunctions in Parkinson’s disease patients with cognitive decline indicative of dementia. Our data suggests that not only cognitive factors but also non-cognitive factors seem to be linked to the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease dementia associated with significant impact on instrumental activities of daily living function. Further studies with larger sample sizes are needed to verify our results.
PMCID: PMC3857297  PMID: 24349393
5.  A Multicenter Study of Glucocerebrosidase Mutations in Dementia With Lewy Bodies 
JAMA neurology  2013;70(6):10.1001/jamaneurol.2013.1925.
While mutations in glucocerebrosidase (GBA1) are associated with an increased risk for Parkinson disease (PD), it is important to establish whether such mutations are also a common risk factor for other Lewy body disorders.
To establish whether GBA1 mutations are a risk factor for dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB).
We compared genotype data on patients and controls from 11 centers. Data concerning demographics, age at onset, disease duration, and clinical and pathological features were collected when available. We conducted pooled analyses using logistic regression to investigate GBA1 mutation carrier status as predicting DLB or PD with dementia status, using common control subjects as a reference group. Random-effects meta-analyses were conducted to account for additional heterogeneity.
Eleven centers from sites around the world performing genotyping.
Seven hundred twenty-one cases met diagnostic criteria for DLB and 151 had PD with dementia. We compared these cases with 1962 controls from the same centers matched for age, sex, and ethnicity.
Main Outcome Measures
Frequency of GBA1 mutations in cases and controls.
We found a significant association between GBA1 mutation carrier status and DLB, with an odds ratio of 8.28 (95% CI, 4.78–14.88). The odds ratio for PD with dementia was 6.48 (95% CI, 2.53–15.37). The mean age at diagnosis of DLB was earlier in GBA1 mutation carriers than in noncarriers (63.5 vs 68.9 years; P<.001), with higher disease severity scores.
Conclusions and Relevance
Mutations in GBA1 are a significant risk factor for DLB. GBA1 mutations likely play an even larger role in the genetic etiology of DLB than in PD, providing insight into the role of glucocerebrosidase in Lewy body disease.
PMCID: PMC3841974  PMID: 23588557
6.  Plasma Ceramide and Glucosylceramide Metabolism Is Altered in Sporadic Parkinson's Disease and Associated with Cognitive Impairment: A Pilot Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e73094.
Mutations in the gene coding for glucocerebrosidase (GBA), which metabolizes glucosylceramide (a monohexosylceramide) into glucose and ceramide, is the most common genetic risk factor for sporadic Parkinson's disease (PD). GBA mutation carriers are more likely to have an earlier age of onset and to develop cognitive impairment and dementia. We hypothesized that plasma levels of lipids involved in ceramide metabolism would also be altered in PD non-GBA mutation carriers and associated with worse cognition.
Plasma ceramide, monohexosylceramide, and lactosylceramide levels in 26 cognitively normal PD patients, 26 PD patients with cognitive impairment or dementia, and 5 cognitively normal non-PD controls were determined by LC/ESI/MS/MS.
Levels of all lipid species were higher in PD patients versus controls. Among PD patients, levels of ceramide C16:0, C18:0, C20:0, C22:0, and C24:1 and monohexosylceramide C16:0, C20:0 and C24:0 species were higher (all P<0.05) in those with versus without cognitive impairment.
These results suggest that plasma ceramide and monohexosylceramide metabolism is altered in PD non-GBA mutation carriers and that higher levels are associated with worse cognition. Additional studies with larger sample sizes, including cognitively normal controls, are needed to confirm these findings.
PMCID: PMC3776817  PMID: 24058461
7.  Synergism between Hedgehog-GLI and EGFR Signaling in Hedgehog-Responsive Human Medulloblastoma Cells Induces Downregulation of Canonical Hedgehog-Target Genes and Stabilized Expression of GLI1 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65403.
Aberrant activation of Hedgehog (HH) signaling has been identified as a key etiologic factor in many human malignancies. Signal strength, target gene specificity, and oncogenic activity of HH signaling depend profoundly on interactions with other pathways, such as epidermal growth factor receptor-mediated signaling, which has been shown to cooperate with HH/GLI in basal cell carcinoma and pancreatic cancer. Our experimental data demonstrated that the Daoy human medulloblastoma cell line possesses a fully inducible endogenous HH pathway. Treatment of Daoy cells with Sonic HH or Smoothened agonist induced expression of GLI1 protein and simultaneously prevented the processing of GLI3 to its repressor form. To study interactions between HH- and EGF-induced signaling in greater detail, time-resolved measurements were carried out and analyzed at the transcriptomic and proteomic levels. The Daoy cells responded to the HH/EGF co-treatment by downregulating GLI1, PTCH, and HHIP at the transcript level; this was also observed when Amphiregulin (AREG) was used instead of EGF. We identified a novel crosstalk mechanism whereby EGFR signaling silences proteins acting as negative regulators of HH signaling, as AKT- and ERK-signaling independent process. EGFR/HH signaling maintained high GLI1 protein levels which contrasted the GLI1 downregulation on the transcript level. Conversely, a high-level synergism was also observed, due to a strong and significant upregulation of numerous canonical EGF-targets with putative tumor-promoting properties such as MMP7, VEGFA, and IL-8. In conclusion, synergistic effects between EGFR and HH signaling can selectively induce a switch from a canonical HH/GLI profile to a modulated specific target gene profile. This suggests that there are more wide-spread, yet context-dependent interactions, between HH/GLI and growth factor receptor signaling in human malignancies.
PMCID: PMC3677915  PMID: 23762360
8.  Illicit Stimulant Use Is Associated with Abnormal Substantia Nigra Morphology in Humans 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56438.
Use of illicit stimulants such as methamphetamine, cocaine, and ecstasy is an increasing health problem. Chronic use can cause neurotoxicity in animals and humans but the long-term consequences are not well understood. The aim of the current study was to investigate the long-term effect of stimulant use on the morphology of the human substantia nigra. We hypothesised that history of illicit stimulant use is associated with an abnormally bright and enlarged substantia nigra (termed ‘hyperechogenicity’) when viewed with transcranial sonography. Substantia nigra morphology was assessed in abstinent stimulant users (n = 36; 31±9 yrs) and in two groups of control subjects: non-drug users (n = 29; 24±5 yrs) and cannabis users (n = 12; 25±7 yrs). Substantia nigra morphology was viewed with transcranial sonography and the area of echogenicity at the anatomical site of the substantia nigra was measured at its greatest extent. The area of substantia nigra echogenicity was significantly larger in the stimulant group (0.273±0.078 cm2) than in the control (0.201±0.054 cm2; P<0.001) and cannabis (0.202±0.045 cm2; P<0.007) groups. 53% of stimulant users exhibited echogenicity that exceeded the 90th percentile for the control group. The results of the current study suggest that individuals with a history of illicit stimulant use exhibit abnormal substantia nigra morphology. Substantia nigra hyperechogenicity is a strong risk factor for developing Parkinson's disease later in life and further research is required to determine if the observed abnormality in stimulant users is associated with a functional deficit of the nigro-striatal system.
PMCID: PMC3572078  PMID: 23418568
9.  SNCA Variants Are Associated with Increased Risk for Multiple System Atrophy 
Annals of neurology  2009;65(5):610-614.
To test whether the synucleinopathies Parkinson’s disease and multiple system atrophy (MSA) share a common genetic etiology, we performed a candidate single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) association study of the 384 most associated SNPs in a genome-wide association study of Parkinson’s disease in 413 MSA cases and 3,974 control subjects. The 10 most significant SNPs were then replicated in additional 108 MSA cases and 537 controls. SNPs at the SNCA locus were significantly associated with risk for increased risk for the development of MSA (combined p = 5.5 × 1012; odds ratio 6.2).
PMCID: PMC3520128  PMID: 19475667
10.  S100B is increased in Parkinson’s disease and ablation protects against MPTP-induced toxicity through the RAGE and TNF-α pathway 
Brain  2012;135(11):3336-3347.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that can, at least partly, be mimicked by the neurotoxin 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine. S100B is a calcium-binding protein expressed in, and secreted by, astrocytes. There is increasing evidence that S100B acts as a cytokine or damage-associated molecular pattern protein not only in inflammatory but also in neurodegenerative diseases. In this study, we show that S100B protein levels were higher in post-mortem substantia nigra of patients with Parkinson’s disease compared with control tissue, and cerebrospinal fluid S100B levels were higher in a large cohort of patients with Parkinson’s disease compared with controls. Correspondingly, mice treated with 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine showed upregulated S100B messenger RNA and protein levels. In turn, ablation of S100B resulted in neuroprotection, reduced microgliosis and reduced expression of both the receptor for advanced glycation endproducts and tumour necrosis factor-α. Our results demonstrate a role of S100B in the pathophysiology of Parkinson’s disease. Targeting S100B may emerge as a potential treatment strategy in this disorder.
PMCID: PMC3501971  PMID: 23169921
calcium-binding protein; MPTP; Parkinson’s disease; S100B
11.  Serum and Cerebrospinal Fluid Levels of Transthyretin in Lewy Body Disorders with and without Dementia 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e48042.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) without (non-demented, PDND) and with dementia (PDD), and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) are subsumed under the umbrella term Lewy body disorders (LBD). The main component of the underlying pathologic substrate, i.e. Lewy bodies and Lewy neurites, is misfolded alpha-synuclein (Asyn), and - in particular in demented LBD patients - co-occurring misfolded amyloid-beta (Abeta). Lowered blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) levels of transthyretin (TTR) - a clearance protein mainly produced in the liver and, autonomously, in the choroid plexus - are associated with Abeta accumulation in Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, a recent study suggests that TTR is involved in Asyn clearance. We measured TTR protein levels in serum and cerebrospinal fluid of 131 LBD patients (77 PDND, 26 PDD, and 28 DLB) and 72 controls, and compared TTR levels with demographic and clinical data as well as neurodegenerative markers in the CSF. Five single nucleotide polymorphisms of the TTR gene which are considered to influence the ability of the protein to carry its ligands were also analyzed. CSF TTR levels were significantly higher in LBD patients compared to controls. Post-hoc analysis demonstrated that this effect was driven by PDND patients. In addition, CSF TTR levels correlated negatively with CSF Abeta1–42, total tau and phospho-tau levels. Serum TTR levels did not significantly differ among the studied groups. There were no relevant associations between TTR levels and genetic, demographic and clinical data, respectively. These results suggest an involvement of the clearance protein TTR in LBD pathophysiology, and should motivate to elucidate TTR-related mechanisms in LBD in more detail.
PMCID: PMC3485000  PMID: 23133543
12.  Cognitive Profiles in Parkinson's Disease and Their Relation to Dementia: A Data-Driven Approach 
Parkinson's disease is characterized by a substantial cognitive heterogeneity, which is apparent in different profiles and levels of severity. To date, a distinct clinical profile for patients with a potential risk of developing dementia still has to be identified. We introduce a data-driven approach to detect different cognitive profiles and stages. Comprehensive neuropsychological data sets from a cohort of 121 Parkinson's disease patients with and without dementia were explored by a factor analysis to characterize different cognitive domains. Based on the factor scores that represent individual performance in each domain, hierarchical cluster analyses determined whether subgroups of Parkinson's disease patients show varying cognitive profiles. A six-factor solution accounting for 65.2% of total variance fitted best to our data and revealed high internal consistencies (Cronbach's alpha coefficients >0.6). The cluster analyses suggested two independent patient clusters with different cognitive profiles. They differed only in severity of cognitive impairment and self-reported limitation of activities of daily living function but not in motor performance, disease duration, or dopaminergic medication. Based on a data-driven approach, divers cognitive profiles were identified, which separated early and more advanced stages of cognitive impairment in Parkinson's disease without dementia. Importantly, these profiles were independent of motor progression.
PMCID: PMC3483831  PMID: 23119224
13.  Phosphorylated α-Synuclein in Parkinson’s Disease 
Science Translational Medicine  2012;4(121):121ra20.
Phosphorylated α-synuclein (PS-129), a protein implicated in the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease (PD), was identified by mass spectrometry in human cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). A highly sensitive and specific assay was established and used to measure PS-129, along withtotal α-synuclein, in the CSF of patients with PD, other parkinsonian disorders such as multiple system atrophy (MSA) and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), and healthy individuals (a total of ~600 samples). PS-129 CSF concentrations correlated weakly with PD severity and, when combined with total α-synuclein CSF concentrations, contributed to distinguishing PD from MSA and PSP. Further rigorous validation in independent cohorts of patients, especially those where samples have been collected longitudinally, will determine whether PS-129 CSF concentrations will be useful for diagnosing PD and for monitoring PD severity and progression.
PMCID: PMC3302662  PMID: 22344688
14.  Evidence of Prognostic Relevant Expression Profiles of Heat-Shock Proteins and Glucose-Regulated Proteins in Oesophageal Adenocarcinomas 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e41420.
A high percentage of oesophageal adenocarcinomas show an aggressive clinical behaviour with a significant resistance to chemotherapy. Heat-shock proteins (HSPs) and glucose-regulated proteins (GRPs) are molecular chaperones that play an important role in tumour biology. Recently, novel therapeutic approaches targeting HSP90/GRP94 have been introduced for treating cancer. We performed a comprehensive investigation of HSP and GRP expression including HSP27, phosphorylated (p)-HSP27(Ser15), p-HSP27(Ser78), p-HSP27(Ser82), HSP60, HSP70, HSP90, GRP78 and GRP94 in 92 primary resected oesophageal adenocarcinomas by using reverse phase protein arrays (RPPA), immunohistochemistry (IHC) and real-time quantitative RT-PCR (qPCR). Results were correlated with pathologic features and survival. HSP/GRP protein and mRNA expression was detected in all tumours at various levels. Unsupervised hierarchical clustering showed two distinct groups of tumours with specific protein expression patterns: The hallmark of the first group was a high expression of p-HSP27(Ser15, Ser78, Ser82) and low expression of GRP78, GRP94 and HSP60. The second group showed the inverse pattern with low p-HSP27 and high GRP78, GRP94 and HSP60 expression. The clinical outcome for patients from the first group was significantly improved compared to patients from the second group, both in univariate analysis (p = 0.015) and multivariate analysis (p = 0.029). Interestingly, these two groups could not be distinguished by immunohistochemistry or qPCR analysis. In summary, two distinct and prognostic relevant HSP/GRP protein expression patterns in adenocarcinomas of the oesophagus were detected by RPPA. Our approach may be helpful for identifying candidates for specific HSP/GRP-targeted therapies.
PMCID: PMC3404067  PMID: 22911792
15.  uPA and PAI-1-Related Signaling Pathways Differ between Primary Breast Cancers and Lymph Node Metastases12 
Translational Oncology  2012;5(2):98-104.
The supporting role of urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPA) and its inhibitor plasminogen activator inhibitor 1 (PAI-1) in migration and invasion is well known. In addition, both factors are key components in cancer cell-related signaling. However, little information is available for uPA and PAI-1-associated signaling pathways in primary cancers and corresponding lymph node metastases. The aim of this study was to compare the expression of uPA and PAI-1-associated signaling proteins in 52 primary breast cancers and corresponding metastases. Proteins were extracted from formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue samples of the primary tumors and metastases. Protein lysates were subsequently analyzed by reverse phase protein array for the expression of members of the PI3K/AKT (FAK, GSK3-β, ILK, pGSK3-β, PI3K, and ROCK) and the MAPK pathways (pp38, pSTAT3, and p38). A solid correlation of uPA expression existed between primary tumors and metastases, whereas PAI-1 expression did not significantly correlate between them. The correlations of uPA and PAI-1 with signaling pathways found in primary tumors did not persist in metastases. Analysis of single molecules revealed that some correlated well between tumors and metastases (FAK, pGSK3-β, ILK, Met, PI3K, ROCK, uPA, p38, and pp38), whereas others did not (PAI-1 and GSK3-β). Whether the expression of a protein correlated between tumor and metastasis or not was independent of the pathway the protein is related to. These findings hint at a complete deregulation of uPA and PAI-1-related signaling in metastases, which might be the reason why uPA and PAI-1 reached clinical relevance only for lymph node-negative breast cancer tissues.
PMCID: PMC3323931  PMID: 22496926
16.  Impaired Trunk Stability in Individuals at High Risk for Parkinson's Disease 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e32240.
The search for disease-modifying treatments for Parkinson's disease advances, however necessary markers for early detection of the disease are still lacking. There is compelling evidence that changes of postural stability occur at very early clinical stages of Parkinson's disease, making it tempting to speculate that changes in sway performance may even occur at a prodromal stage, and may have the potential to serve as a prodromal marker for the disease.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Balance performance was tested in 20 individuals with an increased risk of Parkinson's disease, 12 Parkinson's disease patients and 14 controls using a cross-sectional approach. All individuals were 50 years or older. Investigated groups were similar with respect to age, gender, and height. An accelerometer at the centre of mass at the lower spine quantified sway during quiet semitandem stance with eyes open and closed, as well as with and without foam. With increasing task difficulty, individuals with an increased risk of Parkinson's disease showed an increased variability of trunk acceleration and a decrease of smoothness of sway, compared to both other groups. These differences reached significance in the most challenging condition, i.e. the eyes closed with foam condition.
Individuals with an increased risk of Parkinson's disease have subtle signs of a balance deficit under most challenging conditions. This preliminary finding should motivate further studies on sway performance in individuals with an increased risk of Parkinson's disease, to evaluate the potential of this symptom to serve as a biological marker for prodromal Parkinson's disease.
PMCID: PMC3311622  PMID: 22457713
17.  Comprehensive Research Synopsis and Systematic Meta-Analyses in Parkinson's Disease Genetics: The PDGene Database 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(3):e1002548.
More than 800 published genetic association studies have implicated dozens of potential risk loci in Parkinson's disease (PD). To facilitate the interpretation of these findings, we have created a dedicated online resource, PDGene, that comprehensively collects and meta-analyzes all published studies in the field. A systematic literature screen of ∼27,000 articles yielded 828 eligible articles from which relevant data were extracted. In addition, individual-level data from three publicly available genome-wide association studies (GWAS) were obtained and subjected to genotype imputation and analysis. Overall, we performed meta-analyses on more than seven million polymorphisms originating either from GWAS datasets and/or from smaller scale PD association studies. Meta-analyses on 147 SNPs were supplemented by unpublished GWAS data from up to 16,452 PD cases and 48,810 controls. Eleven loci showed genome-wide significant (P<5×10−8) association with disease risk: BST1, CCDC62/HIP1R, DGKQ/GAK, GBA, LRRK2, MAPT, MCCC1/LAMP3, PARK16, SNCA, STK39, and SYT11/RAB25. In addition, we identified novel evidence for genome-wide significant association with a polymorphism in ITGA8 (rs7077361, OR 0.88, P = 1.3×10−8). All meta-analysis results are freely available on a dedicated online database (, which is cross-linked with a customized track on the UCSC Genome Browser. Our study provides an exhaustive and up-to-date summary of the status of PD genetics research that can be readily scaled to include the results of future large-scale genetics projects, including next-generation sequencing studies.
Author Summary
The genetic basis of Parkinson's disease is complex, i.e. it is determined by a number of different disease-causing and disease-predisposing genes. Especially the latter have proven difficult to find, evidenced by more than 800 published genetic association studies, typically showing discrepant results. To facilitate the interpretation of this large and continuously increasing body of data, we have created a freely available online database (“PDGene”: which provides an exhaustive account of all published genetic association studies in PD. One particularly useful feature is the calculation and display of up-to-date summary statistics of published data for overlapping DNA sequence variants (polymorphisms). These meta-analyses revealed eleven gene loci that showed a statistically very significant (P<5×10−8; a.k.a. genome-wide significance) association with risk for PD: BST1, CCDC62/HIP1R, DGKQ/GAK, GBA, LRRK2, MAPT, MCCC1/LAMP3, PARK16, SNCA, STK39, SYT11/RAB25. In addition and purely by data-mining, we identified one novel PD susceptibility locus in a gene called ITGA8 (rs7077361, P = 1.3×10−8). We note that our continuously updated database represents the most comprehensive research synopsis of genetic association studies in PD to date. In addition to vastly facilitating the work of other PD geneticists, our approach may serve as a valuable example for other complex diseases.
PMCID: PMC3305333  PMID: 22438815
18.  Poor Trail Making Test Performance Is Directly Associated with Altered Dual Task Prioritization in the Elderly – Baseline Results from the TREND Study 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e27831.
Deterioration of executive functions in the elderly has been associated with impairments in walking performance. This may be caused by limited cognitive flexibility and working memory, but could also be caused by altered prioritization of simultaneously performed tasks. To disentangle these options we investigated the associations between Trail Making Test performance—which specifically measures cognitive flexibility and working memory—and dual task costs, a measure of prioritization.
Methodology and Principal Findings
Out of the TREND study (Tuebinger evaluation of Risk factors for Early detection of Neurodegenerative Disorders), 686 neurodegeneratively healthy, non-demented elderly aged 50 to 80 years were classified according to their Trail Making Test performance (delta TMT; TMT-B minus TMT-A). The subjects performed 20 m walks with habitual and maximum speed. Dual tasking performance was tested with walking at maximum speed, in combination with checking boxes on a clipboard, and subtracting serial 7 s at maximum speeds. As expected, the poor TMT group performed worse when subtracting serial 7 s under single and dual task conditions, and they walked more slowly when simultaneously subtracting serial 7 s, compared to the good TMT performers. In the walking when subtracting serial 7 s condition but not in the other 3 conditions, dual task costs were higher in the poor TMT performers (median 20%; range −6 to 58%) compared to the good performers (17%; −16 to 43%; p<0.001). To the contrary, the proportion of the poor TMT performance group that made calculation errors under the dual tasking situation was lower than under the single task situation, but higher in the good TMT performance group (poor performers, −1.6%; good performers, +3%; p = 0.035).
Under most challenging conditions, the elderly with poor TMT performance prioritize the cognitive task at the expense of walking velocity. This indicates that poor cognitive flexibility and working memory are directly associated with altered prioritization.
PMCID: PMC3218043  PMID: 22114705
19.  Discovery of New Molecular Subtypes in Oesophageal Adenocarcinoma 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e23985.
A large number of patients suffering from oesophageal adenocarcinomas do not respond to conventional chemotherapy; therefore, it is necessary to identify new predictive biomarkers and patient signatures to improve patient outcomes and therapy selections. We analysed 87 formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded (FFPE) oesophageal adenocarcinoma tissue samples with a reverse phase protein array (RPPA) to examine the expression of 17 cancer-related signalling molecules. Protein expression levels were analysed by unsupervised hierarchical clustering and correlated with clinicopathological parameters and overall patient survival. Proteomic analyses revealed a new, very promising molecular subtype of oesophageal adenocarcinoma patients characterised by low levels of the HSP27 family proteins and high expression of those of the HER family with positive lymph nodes, distant metastases and short overall survival. After confirmation in other independent studies, our results could be the foundation for the development of a Her2-targeted treatment option for this new patient subgroup of oesophageal adenocarcinoma.
PMCID: PMC3179464  PMID: 21966358
20.  Biomarker candidates of neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s disease for the evaluation of disease-modifying therapeutics 
Journal of Neural Transmission  2011;119(1):39-52.
Reliable biomarkers that can be used for early diagnosis and tracking disease progression are the cornerstone of the development of disease-modifying treatments for Parkinson’s disease (PD). The German Society of Experimental and Clinical Neurotherapeutics (GESENT) has convened a Working Group to review the current status of proposed biomarkers of neurodegeneration according to the following criteria and to develop a consensus statement on biomarker candidates for evaluation of disease-modifying therapeutics in PD. The criteria proposed are that the biomarker should be linked to fundamental features of PD neuropathology and mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration in PD, should be correlated to disease progression assessed by clinical rating scales, should monitor the actual disease status, should be pre-clinically validated, and confirmed by at least two independent studies conducted by qualified investigators with the results published in peer-reviewed journals. To date, available data have not yet revealed one reliable biomarker to detect early neurodegeneration in PD and to detect and monitor effects of drug candidates on the disease process, but some promising biomarker candidates, such as antibodies against neuromelanin, pathological forms of α-synuclein, DJ-1, and patterns of gene expression, metabolomic and protein profiling exist. Almost all of the biomarker candidates were not investigated in relation to effects of treatment, validated in experimental models of PD and confirmed in independent studies.
PMCID: PMC3250615  PMID: 21755462
Parkinson’s disease; Disease-modifying therapies; Neuroprotection; Biomarkers; Surrogate endpoints; Drug development; Disease progression
21.  Influence of Different Cut-Off Values on the Diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment in Parkinson's Disease 
Parkinson's Disease  2011;2011:540843.
Comparable to Alzheimer's disease, mild cognitive impairment in Parkinson's disease (PD-MCI) is associated with an increased risk for dementia. However different definitions of PD-MCI may have varying predictive accuracy for dementia. In a cohort of 101 nondemented Parkinson patients who underwent neuropsychological testing, the frequency of PD-MCI subjects and PD-MCI subtypes (i.e., amnestic/nonamnestic) was determined by use of varying healthy population-based cut-off values. We also investigated the association between defined PD-MCI groups and ADL scales. Varying cut-off values for the definition of PD-MCI were found to affect frequency of PD-MCI subjects (9.9%–92.1%) and, maybe more important, lead to a “shift” of proportion of detected PD-MCI subtypes especially within the amnestic single-domain subtype. Models using a strict cut-off value were significantly associated with lower ADL scores. Thus, the use of defined cut-off values for the definition of PD-MCI is highly relevant for comparison purposes. Strict cut-off values may have a higher predictive value for dementia.
PMCID: PMC3109363  PMID: 21687757
22.  Detection of MPTP-induced Substantia Nigra Hyperechogenicity in Rhesus Monkeys by Transcranial Ultrasound 
Ultrasound in medicine & biology  2010;36(4):604-609.
Detection of substantia nigra (SN) hyperechogenicity by transcranial ultrasound has been proposed as a putative biomarker to differentiate between idiopathic Parkinson’s disease (PD) and other forms of parkinsonism. In the present study, we evaluated the feasibility of using transcranial ultrasound to detect SN echogenicity in normal and 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP)-treated Rhesus monkeys, a well-established model of PD. All animals had natural temporal bone windows for transcranial sonography. We could show that it is possible to visualize major brain landmarks including the “butterfly shaped” midbrain, basal cisterns, third and lateral ventricles in all animals by transcranial ultrasound. Blinded assessments showed that all normal monkeys had no SN hyperechogenicity. Bilaterally parkinsonian (overlesioned) monkeys showed hyperechogenicity of both SN, whereas right hemiparkinsonian monkeys only showed left nigral hyperechogenicity. These findings confirm the feasibility of transcranial ultrasound to detect SN hyperechogenicity in MPTP-treated Rhesus monkeys and suggest that this animal model may provide a platform for understanding the pathophysiological basis of nigral hyperechogenicity.
PMCID: PMC2862281  PMID: 20211515
basal ganglia; nigrostriatal degeneration; movement disorders; Macaca mulatta; non-human primate
23.  Rotigotine in the Long-Term Treatment of Severe RLS with Augmentation: A Series of 28 Cases 
Sleep Disorders  2011;2011:468952.
This structured clinical observation includes 28 patients with severe RLS, severe augmentation, and previously frustrating changes of dopaminergic treatment. All were switched from their current dopaminergic regimen to an individually adjusted rotigotine monotherapy; dosages were kept stable for 12 months. Follow-up exams were performed after 1, 3, 6, and 12 months. Severity of RLS symptoms (IRLS), augmentation (ASRS), depressive symptoms (BDI), and daytime sleepiness (ESS) were assessed at all visits. Median rotigotine dose was 4 mg. 27 of the 28 patients showed a major to complete reduction of RLS symptoms. IRLS and BDI scores (both P < .001), but not ESS scores, were significantly reduced. IRLS and BDI amelioration remained stable over the 12-month follow-up period. Augmentation occurred in only one patient. 71.4% suffered at least one mostly mild side effect; most common were increased appetite with compulsive eating (42.9%), application site reaction (28.6%), and nausea (14.3%). In the clinical setting, rotigotine seems to be valuable for the long-term treatment of patients with severe RLS and augmentation.
PMCID: PMC3581243  PMID: 23471225
24.  Genome-wide association study of intracranial aneurysm identifies three new risk loci 
Nature genetics  2010;42(5):420-425.
Saccular intracranial aneurysms (IAs) are balloon-like dilations of the intracranial arterial wall; their hemorrhage commonly results in severe neurologic impairment and death. We report a second genome-wide association study with discovery and replication cohorts from Europe and Japan comprising 5,891 cases and 14,181 controls with ∼832,000 genotyped and imputed SNPs across discovery cohorts. We identified three new loci showing strong evidence for association with IA in the combined data set, including intervals near RBBP8 on 18q11.2 (OR=1.22, P=1.1×10-12), STARD13/KL on 13q13.1 (OR=1.20, P=2.5×10-9) and a gene-rich region on 10q24.32 (OR=1.29, P=1.2×10-9). We also confirmed prior associations near SOX17 (8q11.23-q12.1; OR=1.28, P=1.3×10-12) and CDKN2A/B (9p21.3; OR=1.31, P=1.5×10-22). It is noteworthy that several putative risk genes play a role in cell-cycle progression, potentially affecting proliferation and senescence of progenitor cell populations that are responsible for vascular formation and repair.
PMCID: PMC2861730  PMID: 20364137
25.  Genome-Wide Association Study reveals genetic risk underlying Parkinson’s disease 
Nature genetics  2009;41(12):1308-1312.
We performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) in 1,713 Caucasian patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and 3,978 controls. After replication in 3,361 cases and 4,573 controls, two strong association signals were observed: in the α-synuclein gene(SNCA) (rs2736990, OR=1.23, p=2.24×10−16) and at the MAPT locus (rs393152, OR=0.77, p=1.95×10−16). We exchanged data with colleagues performing a GWAS in Asian PD cases. Association at SNCA was replicated in the Asian GWAS1, confirming this as a major risk locus across populations. We were able to replicate the effect of a novel locus detected in the Asian cohort (PARK16, rs823128, OR=0.66, p=7.29×10−8) and provide evidence supporting the role of common variability around LRRK2 in modulating risk for PD (rs1491923, OR=1.14, p=1.55×10−5). These data demonstrate an unequivocal role for common genetic variability in the etiology of typical PD and suggest population specific genetic heterogeneity in this disease.
PMCID: PMC2787725  PMID: 19915575

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