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1.  Mortality in Levodopa-Treated Parkinson's Disease 
Parkinson's Disease  2014;2014:426976.
Parkinson's disease (PD) is associated with increased mortality despite many advances in treatment. Following the introduction of levodopa in the late 1960's, many studies reported improved or normalized mortality rates in PD. Despite the remarkable symptomatic benefits provided by levodopa, multiple recent studies have demonstrated that PD patients continue to die at a rate in excess of their peers. We undertook this retrospective study of 211 deceased PD patients to determine the factors associated with mortality in levodopa-treated PD. Our findings confirm that PD is associated with increased mortality in both men and women. Unlike the majority of other mortality studies, we found that women have a greater reduction in lifespan compared to men. We also found that patients with early onset PD (onset at the age of 50 or before) have reduced survival relative to PD patients with later ages of onset. A final important finding is that survival is equal in PD patients treated with levodopa early (within 2 years or less of PD onset) versus later.
PMCID: PMC3927757  PMID: 24616821
2.  TAA repeat variation in the GRIK2 gene does not influence age at onset in Huntington's disease 
Huntington's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder caused by an expanded CAG trinucleotide repeat whose length is the major determinant of age at onset but remaining variation appears to be due in part to the effect of genetic modifiers. GRIK2, which encodes GluR6, a mediator of excitatory neurotransmission in the brain, has been suggested in several studies to be a modifier gene based upon a 3′ untranslated region TAA trinucleotide repeat polymorphism. Prior to investing in detailed studies of the functional impact of this polymorphism, we sought to confirm its effect on age at onset in a much larger dataset than in previous investigations. We genotyped the HD CAG repeat and the GRIK2 TAA repeat in DNA samples from 2,911 Huntington's disease subjects with known age at onset, and tested for a potential modifier effect of GRIK2 using a variety of statistical approaches. Unlike previous reports, we detected no evidence of an influence of the GRIK2 TAA repeat polymorphism on age at motor onset. Similarly, the GRIK2 polymorphism did not show significant modifier effect on psychiatric and cognitive age at onset in HD. Comprehensive analytical methods applied to a much larger sample than in previous studies do not support a role for GRIK2 as a genetic modifier of age at onset of clinical symptoms in Huntington's disease.
PMCID: PMC3752397  PMID: 22771793
Huntington's disease (HD); Age at onset; GRIK2; Genetic modifier
3.  Handedness and motor symptom asymmetry in Parkinson’s disease 
The objective of this study was to confirm whether an association between handedness and the side of symptom onset exists and to evaluate the impact of this association on specific clinical characteristics of Parkinson’s disease (PD).
1173 PD patients were identified from a clinical database. Patients with asymmetrical onset (n=1015) were divided into those with dominant-side onset and those with non-dominant-side onset, and the clinical characteristics of the two subgroups were compared.
In our PD sample, 86.5% of patients presented asymmetrically. There was a significant association between handedness and the side of the initial symptom; that is, the dominant side was affected first in the majority of both left- and right-handed patients. Compared with patients with non-dominant side onset, more patients with dominant-side onset presented with bradykinesia, while fewer patients presented with gait difficulty. Patients with dominant-side onset were diagnosed and began dopaminergic medication after a longer symptom duration than patients with non-dominant-side onset. The only difference in Unified Parkinson Disease Rating Scale scores between the two groups was in a subscore addressing dominant-hand tasks.
An association exists between the dominant hand and the side of the initial motor symptom in PD. Whether the initial symptom occurs on the dominant or non-dominant side has implications for the reported first symptom, the time to diagnosis and the time to dopaminergic treatment initiation. The side of disease onset does not affect the severity of disease, as measured by the Unified Parkinson Disease Rating Scale.
PMCID: PMC3729350  PMID: 20861062
4.  Candidate glutamatergic and dopaminergic pathway gene variants do not influence Huntington’s disease motor onset 
Neurogenetics  2013;14(3-4):173-179.
Huntington’s disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by motor, cognitive, and behavioral disturbances. It is caused by the expansion of the HTT CAG repeat, which is the major determinant of age at onset (AO) of motor symptoms. Aberrant function of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors and/or overexposure to dopamine has been suggested to cause significant neurotoxicity, contributing to HD pathogenesis. We used genetic association analysis in 1,628 HD patients to evaluate candidate polymorphisms in N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor subtype genes (GRIN2A rs4998386 and rs2650427, and GRIN2B rs1806201) and functional polymorphisms in genes in the dopamine pathway (DAT1 3′ UTR 40-bp variable number tandem repeat (VNTR), DRD4 exon 3 48-bp VNTR, DRD2 rs1800497, and COMT rs4608) as potential modifiers of the disease process. None of the seven polymorphisms tested was found to be associated with significant modification of motor AO, either in a dominant or additive model, after adjusting for ancestry. The results of this candidate-genetic study therefore do not provide strong evidence to support a modulatory role for these variations within glutamatergic and dopaminergic genes in the AO of HD motor manifestations.
PMCID: PMC3825533  PMID: 23644918
Huntington’s disease; Glutamate receptors; Dopamine pathway; Genetic modifiers
5.  The Risky Business of Dopamine Agonists in Parkinson Disease and Impulse Control Disorders 
Behavioral neuroscience  2011;125(4):492-500.
Risk-taking behavior is characterized by pursuit of reward in spite of potential negative consequences. Dopamine neurotransmission along the mesocorticolimbic pathway is a potential modulator of risk behavior. In patients with Parkinson's Disease (PD), impulse control disorder (ICD) can result from dopaminergic medication use, particularly Dopamine Agonists (DAA). Behaviors associated with ICD include hypersexuality as well as compulsive gambling, shopping, and eating, and are potentially linked to alterations to risk processing. Using the Balloon Analogue Risk task, we assessed the role of agonist therapy on risk-taking behavior in PD patients with (n=22) and without (n=19) active ICD symptoms. Patients performed the task both ‘on’ and ‘off’ DAA. DAA increased risk-taking in PD patients with active ICD symptoms, but did not affect risk behavior of PD controls. DAA dose was also important in explaining risk behavior. Both groups similarly reduced their risk-taking in high compared to low risk conditions and following the occurrence of a negative consequence, suggesting that ICD patients do not necessarily differ in their ability to process and adjust to some aspects of negative consequences. Our findings suggest dopaminergic augmentation of risk-taking behavior as a potential contributing mechanism for the emergence of ICD in PD patients.
PMCID: PMC3144294  PMID: 21604834
Impulse Control Disorders; Dopamine Agonists; Parkinson Disease; Risk behavior
6.  Population stratification may bias analysis of PGC-1α as a modifier of age at Huntington disease motor onset 
Human Genetics  2012;131(12):1833-1840.
Huntington’s disease (HD) is an inherited neurodegenerative disorder characterized by motor, cognitive and behavioral disturbances, caused by the expansion of a CAG trinucleotide repeat in the HD gene. The CAG allele size is the major determinant of age at onset (AO) of motor symptoms, although the remaining variance in AO is highly heritable. The rs7665116 SNP in PPARGC1A, encoding the mitochondrial regulator PGC-1α, has been reported to be a significant modifier of AO in three European HD cohorts, perhaps due to affected cases from Italy. We attempted to replicate these findings in a large collection of (1,727) HD patient DNA samples of European origin. In the entire cohort, rs7665116 showed a significant effect in the dominant model (p value = 0.008) and the additive model (p value = 0.009). However, when examined by origin, cases of Southern European origin had an increased rs7665116 minor allele frequency (MAF), consistent with this being an ancestry-tagging SNP. The Southern European cases, despite similar mean CAG allele size, had a significantly older mean AO (p < 0.001), suggesting population-dependent phenotype stratification. When the generalized estimating equations models were adjusted for ancestry, the effect of the rs7665116 genotype on AO decreased dramatically. Our results do not support rs7665116 as a modifier of AO of motor symptoms, as we found evidence for a dramatic effect of phenotypic (AO) and genotypic (MAF) stratification among European cohorts that was not considered in previously reported association studies. A significantly older AO in Southern Europe may reflect population differences in genetic or environmental factors that warrant further investigation.
PMCID: PMC3492689  PMID: 22825315
The Activities of Daily Living (ADL) subscore of the UPDRS captures the impact of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) on daily function and may be less affected than other subsections by variability associated with drug cycle and motor fluctuations. We examined UPDRS mentation, ADL and motor subscores in 888 patients with idiopathic PD. Multiple linear regression analyses determined the association between disease duration and UPDRS subscores as a function of medication status at examination and in a subset of patients with multiple examinations. Independent of medication status and across cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses, ADL subscores showed a stronger and more stable association with disease duration than other UPDRS subscores after adjusting for age of disease onset. The association between disease duration and the motor subscore depended on medication status. The strong association between ADL subscore and disease duration in PD suggests that this measure may serve as a better marker of disease progression than signs and symptoms assessed in other UPDRS sections.
PMCID: PMC3103833  PMID: 18951537
8.  Synaptic and Extrasynaptic Localization of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor and the Tyrosine Kinase B Receptor in Cultured Hippocampal Neurons 
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) regulates synapses, but the distribution of BDNF and its receptor TrkB relative to the location of glutamatergic and γ-aminobutyric acidergic (GABAergic) synapses is presently unknown. Immunocytochemistry was performed in primary hippocampal neuron cultures to determine whether BDNF and TrkB are preferentially localized to excitatory or inhibitory markers at 7, 14, and 21 days in vitro (DIV). Glutamatergic sites were localized with vesicular glutamate transporter type 1 (VGLUT1) as presynaptic marker and the NR1 subunit of the NMDA receptor and the GluR1 subunit of the AMPA receptor as receptor markers. GABAergic sites were labeled with the 65-kDa isoform of glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD-65) as presynaptic marker and the γ2 subunit of the GABAA receptor as receptor marker. During development, <30% of BDNF punctae and TrkB clusters were localized to glutamatergic and GABAergic markers. Because their rates of colocalization did not change from 7 to 21 DIV, this study details the distribution of BDNF and TrkB at 14 DIV. BDNF was preferentially colocalized with glutamatergic markers VGLUT1 and NR1 (~30% each). TrkB was also relatively highly colocalized with VGLUT1 and NR1 (~20% each) but was additionally highly colocalized with GABAergic markers GAD-65 (~20%) and γ2 (~30%). NR1 clusters colocalized with BDNF puncta and TrkB clusters were mostly extrasynaptic, as were γ2 clusters colocalized with TrkB clusters. These results show that, whereas most BDNF and TrkB protein is extrasynaptic, BDNF is preferentially associated with excitatory markers and that TrkB is associated equally with excitatory and inhibitory markers.
PMCID: PMC2892721  PMID: 15384067
neurotrophins; glutamate; GABA; synaptogenesis
9.  Evidence for a modifier of onset age in Huntington disease linked to the HD gene in 4p16 
Neurogenetics  2004;5(2):109-114.
Huntington disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder caused by the abnormal expansion of CAG repeats in the HD gene on chromosome 4p16.3. A recent genome scan for genetic modifiers of age at onset of motor symptoms (AO) in HD suggests that one modifier may reside in the region close to the HD gene itself. We used data from 535 HD participants of the New England Huntington cohort and the HD MAPS cohort to assess whether AO was influenced by any of the three markers in the 4p16 region: MSX1 (Drosophila homeo box homologue 1, formerly known as homeo box 7, HOX7), Δ2642 (within the HD coding sequence), and BJ56 (D4S127). Suggestive evidence for an association was seen between MSX1 alleles and AO, after adjustment for normal CAG repeat, expanded repeat, and their product term (model P value 0.079). Of the variance of AO that was not accounted for by HD and normal CAG repeats, 0.8% could be attributed to the MSX1 genotype. Individuals with MSX1 genotype 3/3 tended to have younger AO. No association was found between Δ2642 (P=0.44) and BJ56 (P=0.73) and AO. This study supports previous studies suggesting that there may be a significant genetic modifier for AO in HD in the 4p16 region. Furthermore, the modifier may be present on both HD and normal chromosomes bearing the 3 allele of the MSX1 marker.
PMCID: PMC1866166  PMID: 15029481
Huntington disease; Modifier; Onset age; Genetics; Trinucleotide repeat; HD gene
10.  Genome-wide significance for a modifier of age at neurological onset in Huntington's Disease at 6q23-24: the HD MAPS study 
BMC Medical Genetics  2006;7:71.
Age at onset of Huntington's disease (HD) is correlated with the size of the abnormal CAG repeat expansion in the HD gene; however, several studies have indicated that other genetic factors also contribute to the variability in HD age at onset. To identify modifier genes, we recently reported a whole-genome scan in a sample of 629 affected sibling pairs from 295 pedigrees, in which six genomic regions provided suggestive evidence for quantitative trait loci (QTL), modifying age at onset in HD.
In order to test the replication of this finding, eighteen microsatellite markers, three from each of the six genomic regions, were genotyped in 102 newly recruited sibling pairs from 69 pedigrees, and data were analyzed, using a multipoint linkage variance component method, in the follow-up sample and the combined sample of 352 pedigrees with 753 sibling pairs.
Suggestive evidence for linkage at 6q23-24 in the follow-up sample (LOD = 1.87, p = 0.002) increased to genome-wide significance for linkage in the combined sample (LOD = 4.05, p = 0.00001), while suggestive evidence for linkage was observed at 18q22, in both the follow-up sample (LOD = 0.79, p = 0.03) and the combined sample (LOD = 1.78, p = 0.002). Epistatic analysis indicated that there is no interaction between 6q23-24 and other loci.
In this replication study, linkage for modifier of age at onset in HD was confirmed at 6q23-24. Evidence for linkage was also found at 18q22. The demonstration of statistically significant linkage to a potential modifier locus opens the path to location cloning of a gene capable of altering HD pathogenesis, which could provide a validated target for therapeutic development in the human patient.
PMCID: PMC1586197  PMID: 16914060

Results 1-10 (10)