Mutations in PSEN1 are the most common cause of autosomal dominant familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD). We describe an African-American woman with a family history consistent with FAD who began to have cognitive decline at age 50. Her clinical presentation, MRI, FDG- and PIB-PET scan findings were consistent with AD and she was found to have a novel I238M substitution in PSEN1. As this mutation caused increased production of Aβ42 in an in-vitro assay, was not present in two population databases, and is conserved across species, it is likely to be pathogenic for FAD.
autosomal dominant; Alzheimer’s disease; PSEN1; Presenilin-1; familial; PIB-PET; African; gamma-secretase; in-vitro; Aβ42
Why do some individuals become dissatisfied with their marriages when
levels of negative emotion are high and levels of positive emotions are low,
whereas others remain unaffected? Using data from a 13-year longitudinal study
of middle-aged and older adults in long-term marriages, we examined whether the
5-HTTLPR polymorphism in the serotonin transporter gene moderates the
association between negative and positive emotional behavior (objectively
measured during marital conflict) and changes in marital satisfaction over time.
For individuals with two short alleles of 5-HTTLPR, higher negative and lower
positive emotional behavior at Time 1 predicted declines in marital satisfaction
over time (even after controlling for depression and other covariates). For
individuals with one or two long alleles, emotional behavior did not predict
changes in marital satisfaction. We also found evidence for a crossover
interaction (individuals with two short alleles of 5-HTTLPR and low levels of
negative or high levels of positive emotion had the highest levels of marital
satisfaction). These findings provide the first evidence of a specific genetic
polymorphism that moderates the association between emotional behavior and
changes in marital satisfaction over time and are consistent with increasing
evidence that the short allele of this polymorphism serves as a susceptibility
factor that amplifies sensitivity to both negative and positive emotional
Emotional behavior; genetic polymorphisms; 5-HTTLPR; relationships
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
This article will review the recent advances in the understanding of the role of epigenetic modifications and the promise of future epigenetic therapy in neurodegenerative dementias, including Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s13311-013-0219-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Neurodegeneration; Epigenetics; Alzheimer’s disease; Frontotemporal dementia; Epigenetic drugs; Therapy
Aging is the primary risk factor for cognitive decline, an emerging health threat to aging societies worldwide. Whether anti-aging factors such as klotho can counteract cognitive decline is unknown. We show that a life span-extending variant of the human KLOTHO gene, KL-VS, is associated with enhanced cognition in heterozygous carriers. Because this allele increased klotho levels in serum, we analyzed transgenic mice with systemic overexpression of klotho. They performed better than controls in multiple tests of learning and memory. Elevating klotho in mice also enhanced long-term potentiation, a form of synaptic plasticity, and enriched synaptic GluN2B, an NMDA receptor subunit with key functions in learning and memory. Blockade of GluN2B abolished klotho-mediated effects. Surprisingly, klotho effects were evident also in young mice and did not correlate with age in humans, suggesting independence from the aging process. Augmenting klotho or its effects may enhance cognition at different life stages and counteract cognitive decline.
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.
Previous studies demonstrated that Schwann cells (SCs) express distinct motor and sensory phenotypes, which impact the ability of these pathways to selectively support regenerating neurons. In the present study, unbiased microarray analysis was used to examine differential gene expression in denervated motor and sensory pathways in rats. Several genes that were significantly upregulated in either denervated sensory or motor pathways were identified and two secreted factors were selected for further analysis: osteopontin (OPN) and clusterin (CLU) which were upregulated in denervated motor and sensory pathways, respectively. Sciatic nerve transection induced upregulation of OPN and CLU and expression of both returned to baseline levels with ensuing regeneration. In vitro analysis using exogenously applied OPN induced outgrowth of motor but not sensory neurons. CLU, however, induced outgrowth of sensory neurons, but not motor neurons. To assess the functional importance of OPN and CLU, peripheral nerve regeneration was examined in OPN and CLU−/− mice. When compared with OPN+/+ mice, motor neuron regeneration was reduced in OPN−/− mice. Impaired regeneration through OPN−/− peripheral nerves grafted into OPN+/+ mice indicated that loss of OPN in SCs was responsible for reduced motor regeneration. Sensory neuron regeneration was impaired in CLU−/− mice following sciatic nerve crush and impaired regeneration nerve fibers through CLU−/− nerve grafts transplanted into CLU+/+ mice indicated that reduced sensory regeneration is likely due to SC-derived CLU. Together, these studies suggest unique roles for SC-derived OPN and CLU in regeneration of peripheral motor and sensory axons.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA) are two common pathologies associated with β-amyloid (Aβ) accumulation and inflammation in the brain; neither is well understood. The objective of this study was to evaluate human post mortem brains from AD subjects with purely parenchymal pathology, and those with concomitant CAA (and age-matched controls) for differential expression of microglia-associated Aβ ligands thought to mediate Aβ clearance and the association of these receptors with complement activation. Homogenates of brain parenchyma and enriched microvessel fractions from occipital cortex were probed for levels of C3b, membrane attack complex (MAC), CD11b and α-2-macroglobulin and immunoprecipitation was used to immunoprecipitate (IP) CD11b complexed with C3b and Aβ. Both C3b and MAC were significantly increased in CAA compared to AD-only and controls and IP showed significantly increased CD11b/C3b complexes with Aβ in AD/CAA subjects. Confocal microscopy was used to visualize these interactions. MAC was remarkably associated with CAA affected blood vessels compared to AD-only and control vessels. These findings are consistent with an Aβ clearance mechanism via microglial CD11b that delivers Aβ and C3b to blood vessels in AD/CAA, which leads to Aβ deposition and propagation of complement to the cytolytic MAC, possibly leading to vascular fragility.
To describe patients with progranulin gene (GRN) mutations and evidence of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathology
Two case reports and literature review
University of California San Francisco Memory and Aging Center
Two unrelated patients with GRN mutations
One patient presented at age 65 with a clinical syndrome suggestive of AD and showed evidence of amyloid aggregation on positron emission tomography. Another patient presented at age 54 with logopenic progressive aphasia and at autopsy showed both frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43 inclusions and AD.
In addition to autosomal-dominant frontotemporal lobar degeneration, mutations in GRN may be a risk factor for AD clinical phenotypes and neuropathology.
Familial idiopathic basal ganglia calcification (IBGC) or Fahr’s
disease is a rare neurodegenerative disorder characterized by calcium deposits
in the basal ganglia and other brain regions, which is associated with
neuropsychiatric and motor symptoms. Familial IBGC is genetically heterogeneous
and typically transmitted in an autosomal dominant fashion. We performed a
mutational analysis of SLC20A2, the first gene found to cause
IBGC, to assess its genetic contribution to familial IBGC. We recruited 218
subjects from 29 IBGC-affected families of varied ancestry and collected medical
history, neurological exam, and head CT scans to characterize each
patient’s disease status. We screened our patient cohort for mutations
in SLC20A2. Twelve novel (nonsense, deletions, missense, and
splice site) potentially pathogenic variants, one synonymous variant, and one
previously reported mutation were identified in 13 families. Variants predicted
to be deleterious cosegregated with disease in five families. Three families
showed nonsegregation with clinical disease of such variants, but retrospective
review of clinical and neuroimaging data strongly suggested previous
misclassification. Overall, mutations in SLC20A2 account for as
many as 41 % of our familial IBGC cases. Our screen in a large series
expands the catalog of SLC20A2 mutations identified to date and
demonstrates that mutations in SLC20A2 are a major cause of
familial IBGC. Non-perfect segregation patterns of predicted deleterious
variants highlight the challenges of phenotypic assessment in this condition
with highly variable clinical presentation.
Basal ganglia calcification; Fahr’s; Genetics; Sequencing; Mutations
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.
To identify potential genetic modifiers contributing to the phenotypic variability that is detected in patients with repeat expansions in chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72), we investigated the frequency of these expansions in a cohort of 334 subjects previously found to carry mutations in genes known to be associated with a spectrum of neurodegenerative diseases.
A 2-step protocol, with a fluorescent PCR and a repeat-primed PCR, was used to determine the presence of hexanucleotide expansions in C9ORF72. For one double mutant, we performed Southern blots to assess expansion sizes, and immunohistochemistry to characterize neuropathology.
We detected C9ORF72 repeat expansions in 4 of 334 subjects (1.2% [or 1.8% of 217 families]). All these subjects had behavioral phenotypes and also harbored well-known pathogenic mutations in either progranulin (GRN: p.C466LfsX46, p.R493X, p.C31LfsX35) or microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT: p.P301L). Southern blotting of one double mutant with a p.C466LfsX46 GRN mutation demonstrated a long repeat expansion in brain (>3,000 repeats), and immunohistochemistry showed mixed neuropathology with characteristics of both C9ORF72 expansions and GRN mutations.
Our findings indicate that co-occurrence of 2 evidently pathogenic mutations could contribute to the pleiotropy that is detected in patients with C9ORF72 repeat expansions. These findings suggest that patients with known mutations should not be excluded from further studies, and that genetic counselors should be aware of this phenomenon when advising patients and their family members.
Purpose of Review: This article discusses the current status of knowledge regarding the genetic basis of Alzheimer disease (AD) with a focus on clinically relevant aspects.
Recent Findings: The genetic architecture of AD is complex, as it includes multiple susceptibility genes and likely nongenetic factors. Rare but highly penetrant autosomal dominant mutations explain a small minority of the cases but have allowed tremendous advances in understanding disease pathogenesis. The identification of a strong genetic risk factor, APOE, reshaped the field and introduced the notion of genetic risk for AD. More recently, large-scale genome-wide association studies are adding to the picture a number of common variants with very small effect sizes. Large-scale resequencing studies are expected to identify additional risk factors, including rare susceptibility variants and structural variation.
Summary: Genetic assessment is currently of limited utility in clinical practice because of the low frequency (Mendelian mutations) or small effect size (common risk factors) of the currently known susceptibility genes. However, genetic studies are identifying with confidence a number of novel risk genes, and this will further our understanding of disease biology and possibly the identification of therapeutic targets.
ApoE4 has been associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), amyloid deposition and hypometabolism. ApoE4 is less prevalent in non-amnestic AD variants suggesting a direct effect on the clinical phenotype. However, the impact of ApoE4 on amyloid burden and glucose metabolism across different clinical AD syndromes is not well understood. We aimed to assess the relationship between amyloid deposition, glucose metabolism and ApoE4 genotype in a clinically heterogeneous population of AD patients.
Fifty-two patients with probable AD (NIA-AA) underwent [11C]Pittsburgh compound B (PIB) and [18F]fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) PET scans. All patients had positive PIB-PET scans. 23 were ApoE4+ (14 heterozygous, 9 homozygous) and 29 were ApoE4−. Groups consisted of language-variant AD, visual-variant AD, and AD patients with amnestic and dysexecutive deficits. 52 healthy controls were included for comparison. FDG and PIB uptake was compared between groups on a voxel-wise basis and in regions-of-interest.
Whilst PIB patterns were diffuse in both patient groups, ApoE4− patients showed higher PIB uptake than ApoE4+ patients across the cortex. Higher PIB uptake in ApoE4− patients was particularly significant in right lateral frontotemporal regions. In contrast, similar patterns of hypometabolism relative to controls were found in both patient groups, mainly involving lateral temporoparietal cortex, precuneus, posterior cingulate cortex, and middle frontal gyrus. Comparing patient groups, ApoE4+ subjects showed greater hypometabolism in bilateral medial temporal and right lateral temporal regions, and ApoE4− patients showed greater hypometabolism in cortical areas including supplementary motor cortex and superior frontal gyrus.
ApoE4+ AD patients showed lower global amyloid burden and greater medial temporal hypometabolism compared to matched ApoE4− patients. These findings suggest that ApoE4 may increase susceptibility to molecular pathology and modulate the anatomic pattern of neurodegeneration in AD.
Alzheimer’s disease; PET; amyloid; glucose metabolism; apolipoprotein E
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.
ataxia; cerebellum; PDYN; SCA23; MSA; multiple system atrophy
We examined the relationship between a functional polymorphism of the serotonin transporter (5-HTTLPR) gene and individual differences in emotional reactivity in two laboratory studies. In study 1, empathic responding and physiological reactivity to viewing films of others in distress were assessed in healthy adults in three age groups. In study 2, emotional responding to watching oneself in an embarrassing situation was assessed in healthy adults and in patients with neurodegenerative diseases. In study 1, participants with two short alleles of 5-HTTLPR reported more personal distress and showed higher levels of physiological responses in response to the films than participants with long alleles. In study 2, participants with two short alleles reported more anger and amusement and displayed more emotional expressive behaviors in response to the embarrassing situation than participants with long alleles. These two findings from diverse samples of participants converge to indicate that individuals who are homozygous for the short allele variant of 5-HTTLPR have greater levels of emotional reactivity in two quite different socially-embedded contexts.
5-HTTLPR; empathy; self-conscious emotions; physiology; reactivity
Mutations in the presenilin (PSEN1, PSEN2) and amyloid precursor protein (APP) genes cause familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD) in a nearly fully penetrant, autosomal dominant manner, providing a unique opportunity to study presymptomatic individuals who can be predicted to develop Alzheimer’s disease (AD) with essentially 100% certainty. Using tensor-based morphometry (TBM), we examined brain volume differences between presymptomatic and symptomatic FAD mutation carriers and non-carrier (NC) relatives.
Twenty-five mutation carriers and 10 NC relatives underwent brain MRI and clinical assessment. Four mutation carriers had dementia (MUT-Dem), 12 had amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MUT-aMCI) and nine were cognitively normal (MUT-Norm). TBM brain volume maps of MUT-Norm, MUT-aMCI and MUT-Dem subjects were compared to NC subjects.
MUT-Norm subjects exhibited significantly smaller volumes in the thalamus, caudate and putamen. MUT-aMCI subjects had smaller volumes in the thalamus, splenium and pons, but not in the caudate or putamen. MUT-Dem subjects demonstrated smaller volumes in temporal, parietal and left frontal regions. As non-demented carriers approached the expected age of dementia diagnosis, this was associated with larger ventricular and caudate volumes and a trend towards smaller temporal lobe volume.
Cognitively intact FAD mutation carriers had lower thalamic, caudate and putamen volumes, and we found preliminary evidence for increasing caudate size during the predementia stage. These regions may be affected earliest during prodromal stages of FAD, while cortical atrophy may occur in later stages, when carriers show cognitive deficits. Further studies of this population will help us understand the progression of neurobiological changes in AD.
The Enhancing NeuroImaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis (ENIGMA) Consortium is a collaborative network of researchers working together on a range of large-scale studies that integrate data from 70 institutions worldwide. Organized into Working Groups that tackle questions in neuroscience, genetics, and medicine, ENIGMA studies have analyzed neuroimaging data from over 12,826 subjects. In addition, data from 12,171 individuals were provided by the CHARGE consortium for replication of findings, in a total of 24,997 subjects. By meta-analyzing results from many sites, ENIGMA has detected factors that affect the brain that no individual site could detect on its own, and that require larger numbers of subjects than any individual neuroimaging study has currently collected. ENIGMA’s first project was a genome-wide association study identifying common variants in the genome associated with hippocampal volume or intracranial volume. Continuing work is exploring genetic associations with subcortical volumes (ENIGMA2) and white matter microstructure (ENIGMA-DTI). Working groups also focus on understanding how schizophrenia, bipolar illness, major depression and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affect the brain. We review the current progress of the ENIGMA Consortium, along with challenges and unexpected discoveries made on the way.
Genetics; MRI; GWAS; Consortium; Meta-analysis; Multi-site
spinocerebellar ataxia; cerebellum; C9ORF72
Animals have many ways of protecting themselves against stress; for example, they can induce animal-wide, stress-protective pathways and they can kill damaged cells via apoptosis. We have discovered an unexpected regulatory relationship between these two types of stress responses. We find that C. elegans mutations blocking the normal course of programmed cell death and clearance confer animal-wide resistance to a specific set of environmental stressors; namely, ER, heat and osmotic stress. Remarkably, this pattern of stress resistance is induced by mutations that affect cell death in different ways, including ced-3 (cell death defective) mutations, which block programmed cell death, ced-1 and ced-2 mutations, which prevent the engulfment of dying cells, and progranulin (pgrn-1) mutations, which accelerate the clearance of apoptotic cells. Stress resistance conferred by ced and pgrn-1 mutations is not additive and these mutants share altered patterns of gene expression, suggesting that they may act within the same pathway to achieve stress resistance. Together, our findings demonstrate that programmed cell death effectors influence the degree to which C. elegans tolerates environmental stress. While the mechanism is not entirely clear, it is intriguing that animals lacking the ability to efficiently and correctly remove dying cells should switch to a more global animal-wide system of stress resistance.
As an animal interacts with its environment, it invariably encounters stressful conditions such as extreme temperatures, drought, UV exposure and harmful xenobiotics. Since the ability to respond appropriately to stressful stimuli is paramount to survival, organisms have developed sophisticated stress response programs. Some stressful conditions cause damaged cells to commit suicide (undergo apoptosis), whereas others cause the entire organism to develop mechanisms to resist environmental stress. Studying the small roundworm C. elegans, we find that these two responses are somehow linked: perturbing the mechanisms that allow cells to undergo apoptosis changes the whole animal's response to environmental stress. In fact, perturbing the apoptosis machinery in any way—through mutations that prevent apoptosis altogether, or through mutations that either slow or accelerate the clearance of dying cells—causes the animal to become more stress resistant. Together our findings raise the possibility that the animal may have a way of detecting defects in the normal programmed cell death pathway, and that in response it induces a new program that protects itself from a harsh environment.
Presynaptic differentiation of axons plays a fundamental role in the establishment of neuronal connectivity. However, the mechanisms that govern presynaptic differentiation in the brain remain largely to be elucidated. We report that knockdown of the transcription factor MEF2A in primary neurons and importantly in the rat cerebellar cortex in vivo robustly increases the density of orphan presynaptic sites. Remarkably, the sumoylated transcriptional repressor form of MEF2A drives the suppression of orphan presynaptic sites. We also identify the gene encoding synaptotagmin 1 (Syt1), which acts locally at presynaptic sites, as a direct repressed target gene of sumoylated MEF2A in neurons, and demonstrate that repression of Syt1 mediates MEF2A-dependent elimination of orphan presynaptic sites. Finally, we uncover a role for the MEF2A-induced elimination of orphan presynaptic sites in the accumulation of presynaptic material at large maturing presynaptic boutons. Collectively, these findings define sumoylated MEF2A and Syt1 as components of a novel cell-intrinsic mechanism that orchestrates presynaptic differentiation in the mammalian brain. Our study has important implications for understanding neuronal connectivity in brain development and disease.
To describe the phenotype of patients with C9FTD/ALS (C9ORF72) hexanucleotide repeat expansion.
A total of 648 patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD)–related clinical diagnoses and Alzheimer disease (AD) dementia were tested for C9ORF72 expansion and 31 carried expanded repeats (C9+). Clinical and neuroimaging data were compared between C9+ (15 behavioral variant FTD [bvFTD], 11 FTD–motor neuron disease [MND], 5 amyotrophic lateral sclerosis [ALS]) and sporadic noncarriers (48 bvFTD, 19 FTD-MND, 6 ALS).
All C9+ patients displayed clinical syndromes of bvFTD, ALS, or FTD-MND. At first evaluation, C9+ bvFTD patients had more delusions and greater impairment of working memory, but milder eating dysregulation compared to bvFTD noncarriers. C9+FTD-MND patients had a trend for longer survival and had an earlier age at onset than FTD-MND noncarriers. Voxel-based morphometry demonstrated more thalamic atrophy in FTD and FTD-MND carriers than in noncarriers.
Patients with the C9ORF72 hexanucleotide repeat expansion develop bvFTD, ALS, or FTD-MND with similar clinical and imaging features to sporadic cases. Other FTD spectrum diagnoses and AD dementia appear rare or absent among C9+ individuals. Longer survival in C9+ FTD-MND suggests slower disease progression and thalamic atrophy represents a novel and unexpected feature.
The immense molecular diversity of neurons challenges our ability to understand the genetic and cellular etiology of neuropsychiatric disorders. Leveraging knowledge from neurobiology may help parse the genetic complexity: identifying genes important for a circuit that mediates a particular symptom of a disease may help identify polymorphisms that contribute to risk for the disease as a whole. The serotonergic system has long been suspected in disorders that have symptoms of repetitive behaviors and resistance to change, including autism. We generated a bacTRAP mouse line to permit translational profiling of serotonergic neurons. From this, we identified several thousand serotonergic-cell expressed transcripts, of which 174 were highly enriched, including all known markers of these cells. Analysis of common variants near the corresponding genes in the AGRE collection implicated the RNA binding protein CELF6 in autism risk. Screening for rare variants in CELF6 identified an inherited premature stop codon in one of the probands. Subsequent disruption of Celf6 in mice resulted in animals exhibiting resistance to change and decreased ultrasonic vocalization as well as abnormal levels of serotonin in the brain. This work provides a reproducible and accurate method to profile serotonergic neurons under a variety of conditions and suggests a novel paradigm for gaining information on the etiology of psychiatric disorders.