Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) neurofilament light chain (NfL) concentration is elevated in neurological disorders including frontotemporal degeneration (FTD). We investigated the clinical correlates of elevated CSF NfL levels in FTD.
CSF NfL, amyloid-β42 (Aβ42), tau and phosphorylated tau (ptau) concentrations were compared in 47 normal controls (NC), 8 asymptomatic gene carriers (NC2) of FTD-causing mutations, 79 FTD (45 behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia [bvFTD], 18 progressive nonfluent aphasia [PNFA], 16 semantic dementia [SD]), 22 progressive supranuclear palsy, 50 Alzheimer’s disease, 6 Parkinson’s disease and 17 corticobasal syndrome patients. Correlations between CSF analyte levels were performed with neuropsychological measures and the Clinical Dementia Rating scale sum of boxes (CDRsb). Voxel-based morphometry of structural MR images determined the relationship between brain volume and CSF NfL.
Mean CSF NfL concentrations were higher in bvFTD, SD and PNFA than other groups. NfL in NC2 was similar to NC. CSF NfL, but not other CSF measures, correlated with CDRsb and neuropsychological measures in FTD, and not in other diagnostic groups. Analyses in two independent FTD cohorts and a group of autopsy verified or biomarker enriched cases confirmed the larger group analysis. In FTD, gray and white matter volume negatively correlated with CSF NfL concentration, such that individuals with highest NfL levels exhibited the most atrophy.
CSF NfL is elevated in symptomatic FTD and correlates with disease severity. This measurement may be a useful surrogate endpoint of disease severity in FTD clinical trials. Longitudinal studies of CSF NfL in FTD are warranted.
Frontotemporal Degeneration (FTD) is a common cause of dementia for which there are currently no approved therapies. Over the past decade there has been an explosion of knowledge about the biology and clinical features of FTD that has identified a number of promising therapeutic targets as well as animal models in which to develop drugs. The close association of some forms of FTD with neuropathological accumulation of tau protein or increased neuroinflammation due to progranulin protein deficiency suggests that a drug’s success in treating FTD may predict efficacy in more common diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD). A variety of regulatory incentives, clinical features of FTD, such as rapid disease progression, and relatively pure molecular pathology, suggest that there are advantages to developing drugs for FTD as compared to other more common neurodegenerative diseases such as AD. In March 2011, the Frontotemporal Dementia Treatment Study Group (FTSG) sponsored a conference entitled,“ FTD, the Next Therapeutic Frontier,” focused on pre-clinical aspects of FTD drug development. The goal of the meeting was to promote collaborations between academic researchers and biotechnology and pharmaceutical researchers to accelerate the development of new treatments for FTD. Here we report the key findings from the conference, including the rationale for FTD drug development, epidemiological, genetic and neuropathological features of FTD, FTD animal models and how best to use them and examples of successful drug-development collaborations in other neurodegenerative diseases.
Frontotemporal Degeneration (FTD) encompasses a spectrum of related neurodegenerative disorders with behavioral, language and motor phenotypes for which there are currently no effective therapies. This manuscript is the second of two articles that summarize the presentations and discussions that occurred at two symposia in 2011 sponsored by the Frontotemporal Dementia Treatment Study Group (FTSG), a collaborative group of academic and industry researchers that is devoted to developing treatments for FTD. This manuscript discusses the current status of FTD clinical research that is relevant to the conduct of clinical trials and why FTD research may be an attractive pathway for developing therapies for neurodegenerative disorders. The clinical and molecular features of FTD, including rapid disease progression and relatively pure molecular pathology, suggest that there are advantages to developing drugs for FTD as compared to other dementias. FTD qualifies as orphan indication, providing additional advantages for drug development. Two recent sets of consensus diagnostic criteria will facilitate the identification of patients with FTD, and a variety of neuropsychological, functional and behavioral scales have been shown to be sensitive to disease progression. Moreover, quantitative neuroimaging measurements demonstrate progressive brain atrophy in FTD at rates that may surpass Alzheimer's disease (AD). Finally, the similarities between FTD and other neurodegenerative diseases with drug development efforts already underway suggest that FTD researchers will be able to draw upon this experience to create a roadmap for FTD drug development. We conclude that FTD research has reached sufficient maturity to pursue clinical development of specific FTD therapies.
Memantine has been used off-label to treat frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTD). A previous 26 week open label study suggested a transient, modest benefit on neuropsychiatric symptoms as measured by the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI).
We performed a randomized, parallel group, double blind, placebo controlled trial of 20 mg memantine taken orally daily for 26 weeks in FTD. Participants met Neary criteria for behavioral variant (bvFTD) or semantic dementia (SD) and had characteristic brain atrophy. Use of cholinesterase inhibitors was prohibited. The objective of the study was to determine whether memantine is an effective treatment for FTD. Individuals were randomized to memantine or matched placebo tablets in blocks of two and four. Primary endpoints were the change in total NPI score and Clinical Global Impression of Change (CGIC) scores after 26 weeks. Secondary outcomes included a neuropsychological battery, and other cognitive, global and activity of daily living measures. Clinicaltrials.gov identifier: NCT00545974
100 subjects were screened, 81 were randomized, 5 (6%) discontinued and 76 completed all visits. Enrollment numbers were lower than planned due to many subjects’ preference to take memantine or cholinesterase inhibitors off-label rather than participate in a clinical trial. 39 memantine and 42 placebo subjects entered the primary intent to treat analysis. There was no effect of memantine treatment on either the NPI (mean difference [MD] 2.2, 95%CI: −3.9, 8.3, p = 0.47) or CGIC (MD 0, 95%CI: −0.4, 0.4, p = 0.90) after 26 weeks of treatment. Memantine was generally well tolerated, however there were more frequent cognitive adverse events in the memantine group.
There was no benefit of memantine treatment in bvFTD or SD. These data do not support memantine use in FTD.
Forest Research Institute
Some patients meeting behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) diagnostic criteria progress slowly and plateau at mild symptom severity. Such patients have mild neuropsychological and functional impairments, lack characteristic bvFTD brain atrophy, and have thus been referred to as bvFTD “phenocopies” or slowly progressive (bvFTD-SP). The few patients with bvFTD-SP that have been studied at autopsy have found no evidence of FTD pathology, suggesting that bvFTD-SP is neuropathologically distinct from other forms of FTD. Here, we describe two patients with bvFTD-SP with chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72) hexanucleotide expansions.
Three hundred and eighty-four patients with FTD clinical spectrum and Alzheimer’s disease diagnoses were screened for C9ORF72 expansion. Two bvFTD-SP mutation carriers were identified. Neuropsychological and functional data, as well as brain atrophy patterns assessed using voxel-based morphometry (VBM), were compared with 44 patients with sporadic bvFTD and 85 healthy controls.
Both patients were age 48 at baseline and met possible bvFTD criteria. In the first patient, VBM revealed thalamic and posterior insula atrophy. Over seven years, his neuropsychological performance and brain atrophy remained stable. In the second patient, VBM revealed cortical atrophy with subtle frontal and insular volume loss. Over two years, her neuropsychological and functional scores as well as brain atrophy remained stable.
C9ORF72 mutations can present with a bvFTD-SP phenotype. Some bvFTD-SP patients may have neurodegenerative pathology, and C9ORF72 mutations should be considered in patients with bvFTD-SP and a family history of dementia or motor neuron disease.
C9ORF72; C9FTD/ALS; frontotemporal dementia; genetics; dementia
Frontotemporal dementia-amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (FTD-ALS) is a heritable form of FTD, but the gene(s) responsible for the majority of autosomal dominant FTD-ALS cases have yet to be found. Previous studies have identified a region on chromosome 9p that is associated with FTD and ALS.
The authors report the clinical, volumetric MRI, neuropathological and genetic features of a new chromosome 9p-linked FTD-ALS family, VSM-20.
Ten members of family VSM-20 displayed heterogeneous clinical phenotypes of isolated behavioural-variant FTD (bvFTD), ALS or a combination of the two. Parkinsonism was common, with one individual presenting with a corticobasal syndrome. Analysis of structural MRI scans from five affected family members revealed grey- and white-matter loss that was most prominent in the frontal lobes, with mild parietal and occipital lobe atrophy, but less temporal lobe atrophy than in 10 severity-matched sporadic bvFTD cases. Autopsy in three family members showed a consistent and unique subtype of FTLD-TDP pathology. Genome-wide linkage analysis conclusively linked family VSM-20 to a 28.3 cM region between D9S1808 and D9S251 on chromosome 9p, reducing the published minimal linked region to a 3.7 Mb interval. Genomic sequencing and expression analysis failed to identify mutations in the 10 known and predicted genes within this candidate region, suggesting that next-generation sequencing may be needed to determine the mutational mechanism associated with chromosome 9p-linked FTD-ALS.
Family VSM-20 significantly reduces the region linked to FTD-ALS on chromosome 9p. A distinct pattern of brain atrophy and neuropathological findings may help to identify other families with FTD-ALS caused by this genetic abnormality.
While patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) show deficits in attention, manifested by inefficient performance on visual search, new visual talents can emerge in patients with frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), suggesting that, at least in some of the patients, visual attention is spared, if not enhanced. To investigate the underlying mechanisms for visual talent in FTLD (behavioral variant FTD [bvFTD] and semantic dementia [SD]) patients, we measured performance on a visual search paradigm that includes both feature and conjunction search, while simultaneously monitoring saccadic eye movements. AD patients were impaired relative to healthy controls (NC) and FTLD patients on both feature and conjunction search. BvFTD patients showed less accurate performance only on the conjunction search task, but slower response times than NC on all three tasks. In contrast, SD patients were as accurate as controls and had faster response times when faced with the largest number of distracters in the conjunction search task. Measurement of saccades during visual search showed that AD patients explored more of the image, whereas SD patients explored less of the image before making a decision as to whether the target was present. Performance on the conjunction search task positively correlated with gray matter volume in the superior parietal lobe, precuneus, middle frontal gyrus and superior temporal gyrus. These data suggest that despite the presence of extensive temporal lobe degeneration, visual talent in SD may be facilitated by more efficient visual search under distracting conditions due to enhanced function in the dorsal frontoparietal attention network.
Alzheimer’s disease; frontotemporal dementia; conjunction search; voxel-based morphometry; eye movements
Recently, Coppola and colleagues demonstrated that a rare MAPT sequence variant, c.454G>A (p.A152T), significantly increases the risk of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) spectrum disorders and Alzheimer's disease (AD) in a screen of 15,369 subjects1. We describe clinical features of 9 patients with neurodegenerative disease (4 women) harboring p.A152T, aged 51 to 79 years at symptom onset. Seven developed FTD spectrum clinical syndromes, including progressive supranuclear palsy syndrome (PSP, n=2), behavioral variant FTD (bvFTD, n=1), nonfluent variant primary progressive aphasia (nfvPPA, n=2), and corticobasal syndrome (CBS, n=2); two patients were diagnosed with clinical AD. Thus, MAPT p.A152T is associated with a variety of FTD spectrum clinical presentations, although patients with clinical AD are also identified. These data warrant larger studies with clinicopathological correlation to elucidate the influence of this genetic variant on neurodegenerative disease.
All Cognitive Disorders/Dementia; Alzheimer's disease; Frontotemporal Dementia; Corticobasal degeneration; Progressive Supranuclear Palsy
The aetiology and pathogenesis of non-genetic forms of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is unknown and even with the genetic forms of FTD, pathogenesis remains elusive. Given the association between systemic inflammation and other neurodegenerative processes, links between autoimmunity and FTD need to be explored.
To describe the prevalence of systemic autoimmune disease in semantic variant primary progressive aphasia (svPPA), a clinical cohort, and in progranulin (PGRN) mutation carriers compared to neurologically healthy normal controls (NC) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) as dementia controls.
Academic medical centres.
129 svPPA, 39 PGRN, 186 NC, and 158 AD patients underwent chart review for autoimmune conditions. A large subset of svPPA, PGRN, and NC cohorts underwent serum analysis for tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α) levels.
Chi-square comparison of autoimmune prevalence and follow up logistic regression.
There was a significantly increased risk of autoimmune disorders clustered around inflammatory arthritides, cutaneous disorders, and gastrointestinal conditions in the svPPA and PGRN cohorts. Elevated TNF-α levels were observed in svPPA and PGRN compared to NC.
svPPA and PGRN are associated with increased prevalence of specific and related autoimmune diseases compared to NC and AD. These findings suggest a unique pattern of systemic inflammation in svPPA and PGRN and open new research avenues for understanding and treating disorders associated with underlying transactive response DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43) aggregation.
There are no Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medications indicated for the treatment of frontotemporal dementia (FTD). We sought to determine the most commonly used drugs used to treat behavioral variant FTD (bvFTD) in specialized dementia clinics.
Medication and demographic data from the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers of California (ARCC) and a multicenter FTD natural history study (NHS) data set were compared in bvFTD and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and effects of demographic variables were assessed using logistic regression.
Overall, the percentage of patients taking one or more FDA-approved AD or psychiatric medications was similar in bvFTD and AD; however, after controlling for demographic variables, acetylcholinesterase inhibitor (AChI) use was less common in bvFTD, whereas memantine use remained similar in the 2 groups.
Despite lack of evidence for efficacy, the use of AChIs and memantine is common in bvFTD. Clinical trials should be pursued to determine the optimal therapeutic interventions for bvFTD.
frontotemporal dementia; Alzheimer’s disease; treatment; donepezil; memantine; galantamine; antipsychotic agents
The objective of this study was to determine which aspects of executive functions are most affected in behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) and best differentiate this syndrome from Alzheimer disease (AD).
We compared executive functions in 22 patients diagnosed with bvFTD, 26 with AD, and 31 neurologically healthy controls using a conceptually driven and comprehensive battery of executive function tests, the NIH EXAMINER battery (http://examiner.ucsf.edu).
The bvFTD and the AD patients were similarly impaired compared with controls on tests of working memory, category fluency, and attention, but the patients with bvFTD showed significantly more severe impairments than the patients with AD on tests of letter fluency, antisaccade accuracy, social decision-making, and social behavior. Discriminant function analysis with jackknifed cross-validation classified the bvFTD and AD patient groups with 73% accuracy.
Executive function assessment can support bvFTD diagnosis when measures are carefully selected to emphasize frontally specific functions.
Deficits in the ability to suppress automatic behaviors lead to impaired decision making, aberrant motor behavior, and impaired social function in humans with frontal lobe neurodegeneration. We have studied patients with different patterns of frontal lobe dysfunction resulting from frontotemporal lobar degeneration or Alzheimer's disease, investigating their ability to perform visually guided saccades and smooth pursuit eye movements and to suppress visually guided saccades on the antisaccade task. Patients with clinical syndromes associated with dorsal frontal lobe damage had normal visually guided saccades but were impaired relative to other patients and control subjects in smooth pursuit eye movements and on the antisaccade task. The percentage of correct antisaccade responses was correlated with neuropsychological measures of frontal lobe function and with estimates of frontal lobe gray matter volume based on analyses of structural magnetic resonance images. After controlling for age, gender, cognitive status, and potential interactions between disease group and oculomotor function, an unbiased voxel-based morphometric analysis identified the volume of a segment of the right frontal eye field (FEF) as positively correlated with antisaccade performance (less volume equaled lower percentage of correct responses) but not with either pursuit performance or antisaccade or visually guided saccade latency or gain. In contrast, the volume of the presupplementary motor area (pre-SMA) and a portion of the supplementary eye fields correlated with antisaccade latency (less volume equaled shorter latency) but not with the percentage of correct responses. These results suggest that integrity of the presupplementary motion area/ supplementary eye fields is critical for supervisory processes that slow the onset of saccades, facilitating voluntary saccade targeting decisions that rely on the FEF.
antisaccade; smooth pursuit; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; presupplementary motor area; supplementary eye field; frontal eye field; brain volume
Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) has been conceptualized as a large-scale network disruption, but the specific network targeted has not been fully characterized. We sought to delineate the affected network in patients with clinical PSP.
Using task-free fMRI, we mapped intrinsic connectivity to the dorsal midbrain tegmentum (dMT), a region which shows focal atrophy in PSP. Two healthy control groups (1 young, 1 older) were used to define and replicate the normal connectivity pattern, and patients with PSP were compared to an independent matched healthy control group on measures of network connectivity.
Healthy young and older subjects showed a convergent pattern of connectivity to the dMT, including brainstem, cerebellar, diencephalic, basal ganglia, and cortical regions involved in skeletal, oculomotor, and executive control. Patients with PSP showed significant connectivity disruptions within this network, particularly within cortico-subcortical and cortico-brainstem interactions. Patients with more severe functional impairment showed lower mean dMT network connectivity scores.
This study defines a PSP-related intrinsic connectivity network in the healthy brain and demonstrates the sensitivity of network-based imaging methods to PSP-related physiological and clinical changes.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) often overlaps clinically with corticobasal syndrome (CBS) and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), both of which have prominent eye movement abnormalities. To investigate the ability of oculomotor performance to differentiate between FTLD, Alzheimer's disease, CBS and PSP, saccades and smooth pursuit were measured in three FTLD subtypes, including 24 individuals with frontotemporal dementia (FTD), 19 with semantic dementia (SD) and six with progressive non-fluent aphasia (PA), as compared to 28 individuals with Alzheimer's disease, 15 with CBS, 10 with PSP and 27 control subjects. Different combinations of oculomotor abnormalities were identified in all clinical syndromes except for SD, which had oculomotor performance that was indistinguishable from age-matched controls. Only PSP patients displayed abnormalities in saccade velocity, whereas abnormalities in saccade gain were observed in PSP > CBS > Alzheimer's disease subjects. All patient groups except those with SD were impaired on the anti-saccade task, however only the FTLD subjects and not Alzheimer's disease, CBS or PSP groups, were able to spontaneously self-correct anti-saccade errors as well as controls. Receiver operating characteristic statistics demonstrated that oculomotor findings were superior to neuropsychological tests in differentiating PSP from other disorders, and comparable to neuropsychological tests in differentiating the other patient groups. These data suggest that oculomotor assessment may aid in the diagnosis of FTLD and related disorders.
oculomotor; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; corticobasal syndrome; progressive supranuclear palsy; Alzheimer's disease
Little is known about how changes in DNA methylation mediate risk for human diseases including dementia. Analysis of genome-wide methylation patterns in patients with two forms of tau-related dementia – progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) – revealed significant differentially methylated probes (DMPs) in patients versus unaffected controls. Remarkably, DMPs in PSP were clustered within the 17q21.31 region, previously known to harbor the major genetic risk factor for PSP. We identified and replicated a dose-dependent effect of the risk-associated H1 haplotype on methylation levels within the region in blood and brain. These data reveal that the H1 haplotype increases risk for tauopathy via differential methylation at that locus, indicating a mediating role for methylation in dementia pathophysiology.
Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) are two neurodegenerative diseases linked, at the pathologic and genetic level, to the microtubule associated protein tau. We studied epigenetic changes (DNA methylation levels) in peripheral blood from patients with PSP, FTD, and unaffected controls. Analysis of genome-wide methylation patterns revealed significant differentially methylated probes in patients versus unaffected controls. Remarkably, differentially methylated probes in PSP vs. controls were preferentially clustered within the 17q21.31 region, previously known to harbor the major genetic risk factor for PSP. We identified and replicated a dose-dependent effect of the risk-associated H1 haplotype on methylation levels within the region in independent datasets in blood and brain. These data reveal that the H1 haplotype increases risk for tauopathy via differential methylation, indicating a mediating role for methylation in dementia pathophysiology.
Current criteria for the clinical diagnosis of pathologically confirmed corticobasal degeneration (CBD) no longer reflect the expanding understanding of this disease and its clinicopathologic correlations. An international consortium of behavioral neurology, neuropsychology, and movement disorders specialists developed new criteria based on consensus and a systematic literature review. Clinical diagnoses (early or late) were identified for 267 nonoverlapping pathologically confirmed CBD cases from published reports and brain banks. Combined with consensus, 4 CBD phenotypes emerged: corticobasal syndrome (CBS), frontal behavioral-spatial syndrome (FBS), nonfluent/agrammatic variant of primary progressive aphasia (naPPA), and progressive supranuclear palsy syndrome (PSPS). Clinical features of CBD cases were extracted from descriptions of 209 brain bank and published patients, providing a comprehensive description of CBD and correcting common misconceptions. Clinical CBD phenotypes and features were combined to create 2 sets of criteria: more specific clinical research criteria for probable CBD and broader criteria for possible CBD that are more inclusive but have a higher chance to detect other tau-based pathologies. Probable CBD criteria require insidious onset and gradual progression for at least 1 year, age at onset ≥50 years, no similar family history or known tau mutations, and a clinical phenotype of probable CBS or either FBS or naPPA with at least 1 CBS feature. The possible CBD category uses similar criteria but has no restrictions on age or family history, allows tau mutations, permits less rigorous phenotype fulfillment, and includes a PSPS phenotype. Future validation and refinement of the proposed criteria are needed.
Behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia and semantic dementia have been associated with striatal degeneration, but few studies have delineated striatal subregion volumes in vivo or related them to clinical phenotype. We traced caudate, putamen, and nucleus accumbens on MR images to quantify volumes of these structures in behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia, semantic dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and healthy controls (n = 12 per group). We further related these striatal volumes to clinical deficits and neuropathological findings in a subset of patients. Behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia and semantic dementia showed significant overall striatal atrophy compared with controls. Moreover, behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia showed panstriatal degeneration whereas semantic dementia featured a more focal pattern involving putamen and accumbens. Right-sided striatal atrophy, especially in the putamen, correlated with overall behavioral symptom severity and with specific behavioral domains. At autopsy, patients with behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia and semantic dementia showed striking and severe tau or TAR DNA-binding protein of 43 kDa pathology, especially in ventral parts of the striatum. These results demonstrate that ventral striatum degeneration is a prominent shared feature in behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia and semantic dementia and may contribute to social-emotional deficits common to both disorders.
To assess the neuropsychological and anatomical correlates of anti-saccade (AS) task performance in normal elders.
The AS task correlates with neuropsychological measures of executive function and frontal lobe volume in neurological diseases, but has not been studied in a well-characterized normal elderly population. Because executive dysfunction can indicate an increased risk for cognitive decline in cognitively normal elders, we hypothesized that AS performance might be a sensitive test of age-related processes that impair cognition.
The percentage of correct AS responses was evaluated in forty-eight normal elderly subjects and compared with neuropsychological test performance using linear regression analysis and gray matter volume measured on MRI scans using voxel-based morphometry.
The percentage of correct AS responses was associated with measures of executive function, including modified trails, design fluency, Stroop inhibition, abstraction, and backward digit span, and correlated with gray matter volume in two brain regions involved in inhibitory control: the left inferior frontal junction and the right supplementary eye field. The association of AS correct responses with neuropsychological measures of executive function was strongest in individuals with fewer years of education.
The AS task is sensitive to executive dysfunction and frontal lobe structural alterations in normal elders.
anti-saccade; normal aging; executive function; frontal lobe; cognitive reserve
Tauopathies represent a group of neurodegenerative disorders characterized by the accumulation of pathological TAU protein in brains. We report a human neuronal model of tauopathy derived from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) carrying a TAU-A152T mutation. Using zinc-finger nuclease-mediated gene editing, we generated two isogenic iPSC lines: one with the mutation corrected, and another with the homozygous mutation engineered. The A152T mutation increased TAU fragmentation and phosphorylation, leading to neurodegeneration and especially axonal degeneration. These cellular phenotypes were consistent with those observed in a patient with TAU-A152T. Upon mutation correction, normal neuronal and axonal morphologies were restored, accompanied by decreases in TAU fragmentation and phosphorylation, whereas the severity of tauopathy was intensified in neurons with the homozygous mutation. These isogenic TAU-iPSC lines represent a critical advancement toward the accurate modeling and mechanistic study of tauopathies with human neurons and will be invaluable for drug-screening efforts and future cell-based therapies.
•A human neuron model of tauopathy using TAU-A152T-iPSCs•Correction of TAU-A152T mutation eliminates tauopathy•Engineered homozygous TAU-A152T mutation intensifies tauopathy•A152T mutation increases TAU proteolysis, leading to tauopathy
Rare mutations in the gene encoding for tau (MAPT, microtubule-associated protein tau) cause frontotemporal dementia-spectrum (FTD-s) disorders, including FTD, progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and corticobasal syndrome, and a common extended haplotype spanning across the MAPT locus is associated with increased risk of PSP and Parkinson's disease. We identified a rare tau variant (p.A152T) in a patient with a clinical diagnosis of PSP and assessed its frequency in multiple independent series of patients with neurodegenerative conditions and controls, in a total of 15 369 subjects.
Tau p.A152T significantly increases the risk for both FTD-s (n = 2139, OR = 3.0, CI: 1.6–5.6, P = 0.0005) and Alzheimer's disease (AD) (n = 3345, OR = 2.3, CI: 1.3–4.2, P = 0.004) compared with 9047 controls. Functionally, p.A152T (i) decreases the binding of tau to microtubules and therefore promotes microtubule assembly less efficiently; and (ii) reduces the tendency to form abnormal fibers. However, there is a pronounced increase in the formation of tau oligomers. Importantly, these findings suggest that other regions of the tau protein may be crucial in regulating normal function, as the p.A152 residue is distal to the domains considered responsible for microtubule interactions or aggregation. These data provide both the first genetic evidence and functional studies supporting the role of MAPT p.A152T as a rare risk factor for both FTD-s and AD and the concept that rare variants can increase the risk for relatively common, complex neurodegenerative diseases, but since no clear significance threshold for rare genetic variation has been established, some caution is warranted until the findings are further replicated.
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
We and others have recently reported an association between ALS and single nucleotide polymorphisms on chromosome 9p21 in several populations. Here we show that the associated haplotype is the same in all populations and that several families previously shown to have genetic linkage to this region also share this haplotype. The most parsimonious explanation of these data is that there is a single founder for this form of disease.
Genetics; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; frontotemporal dementia; Finland
Patients with corticobasal degeneration (CBD) pathology present with diverse clinical syndromes also associated with other neuropathologies, including corticobasal syndrome, progressive nonfluent aphasia, and an Alzheimer’s-type dementia. Some present with behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), though this subtype still requires more detailed phenotypic characterization. All patients with CBD pathology and clinical assessment were reviewed (N=17) and selected if they initially met criteria for bvFTD [bvFTD(CBD): N=5]. Available bvFTD patients with Pick’s [bvFTD(Pick’s): N=5] were selected as controls. Patients were also compared to healthy older controls [N=53] on neuropsychological and neuroimaging measures. At initial presentation, bvFTD(CBD) showed few neuropsychological or motor differences from bvFTD(Pick’s). Neuropsychiatrically, they were predominantly apathetic with less florid social disinhibition and eating disturbances, and were more anxious than bvFTD(Pick’s) patients. Voxel-based morphometry revealed similar patterns of predominantly frontal atrophy between bvFTD groups, though overall degree of atrophy was less severe in bvFTD(CBD), who also showed comparative preservation of the frontoinsular rim, with dorsal > ventral frontal atrophy, and sparing of temporal and parietal structures relative to bvFTD(Pick’s) patients. Despite remarkable overlap between the two patient types, bvFTD patients with underlying CBD pathology show subtle clinical features that may distinguish them from patients with Pick’s disease neuropathology.
Corticobasal degeneration; frontotemporal dementia; behavior; neuropsychiatry; neuropsychology; neuropathology
Several families have been reported with autosomal dominant frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), genetically linked to chromosome 9p21. Here we report an expansion of a non-coding GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat in the gene C9ORF72 that is strongly associated with disease in a large FTD/ALS kindred, previously reported to be conclusively linked to chromosome 9p. This same repeat expansion was identified in the majority of our families with a combined FTD/ALS phenotype and TDP-43 based pathology. Analysis of extended clinical series found the C9ORF72 repeat expansion to be the most common genetic abnormality in both familial FTD (11.7%) and familial ALS (22.5%). The repeat expansion leads to the loss of one alternatively spliced C9ORF72 transcript and to formation of nuclear RNA foci, suggesting multiple disease mechanisms. Our findings indicate that repeat expansion in C9ORF72 is a major cause of both FTD and ALS.
Deficits in the generation and control of saccades have been described in clinically-defined frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Because clinical FTD syndromes can correspond to a number of different underlying neuropathologic FTD and non-FTD diagnoses, we sought to determine the saccade abnormalities associated with autopsy-defined cases of FTLD and AD.
Participants and design
An infrared eye tracker was used to record visually guided saccades to ten degree targets and antisaccades in 28 autopsy-confirmed FTD and 10 AD subjects, an average of 35.6 ± 10 months prior to death and 27 age-matched normal controls (NC). 12 FTD subjects had FTLD-TDP pathology, 15 had FTLD-tau pathology and one showed FTLD-FUS pathology. Receiver operating curve (ROC) statistics were used to determine diagnostic value of oculomotor variables. Neuroanatomical correlates of oculomotor abnormalities were investigated using voxel-based morphometry (VBM).
All FTD and AD subjects were impaired relative to NC on the antisaccade task. However, only FTLD-tau and AD cases displayed reflexive visually-guided saccade abnormalities. AD cases displayed prominent increases in horizontal saccade latency that differentiated them from FTD cases. Impairments in velocity and gain were most severe in individuals with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) but were also present in other tauopathies. Vertical and horizontal saccade velocity and gain were able to differentiate PSP cases from other patients. Vertical saccade velocity was strongly correlated with dorsal midbrain volume.
Decreased visually-guided saccade velocity and gain are suggestive of underlying tau pathology in FTD, with vertical saccade abnormalities most diagnostic of PSP.
Frontotemporal Dementia; Corticobasal Degeneration; Progressive Supranuclear Palsy; Ocular Motility