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1.  Transcriptome Profiling of Peripheral Blood in 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome Reveals Functional Pathways Related to Psychosis and Autism Spectrum Disorder 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(7):e0132542.
22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome (22q11DS) represents one of the greatest known genetic risk factors for the development of psychotic illness, and is also associated with high rates of autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) in childhood. We performed integrated genomic analyses of 22q11DS to identify genes and pathways related to specific phenotypes.
We used a high-resolution aCGH array to precisely characterize deletion breakpoints. Using peripheral blood, we examined differential expression (DE) and networks of co-expressed genes related to phenotypic variation within 22q11DS patients. Whole-genome transcriptional profiling was performed using Illumina Human HT-12 microarrays. Data mining techniques were used to validate our results against independent samples of both peripheral blood and brain tissue from idiopathic psychosis and ASD cases.
Eighty-five percent of 22q11DS individuals (N = 39) carried the typical 3 Mb deletion, with significant variability in deletion characteristics in the remainder of the sample (N = 7). DE analysis and weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA) identified expression changes related to psychotic symptoms in patients, including a module of co-expressed genes which was associated with psychosis in 22q11DS and involved in pathways associated with transcriptional regulation. This module was enriched for brain-expressed genes, was not related to antipsychotic medication use, and significantly overlapped with transcriptional changes in idiopathic schizophrenia. In 22q11DS-ASD, both DE and WGCNA analyses implicated dysregulation of immune response pathways. The ASD-associated module showed significant overlap with genes previously associated with idiopathic ASD.
These findings further support the use of peripheral tissue in the study of major mutational models of diseases affecting the brain, and point towards specific pathways dysregulated in 22q11DS carriers with psychosis and ASD.
PMCID: PMC4511766  PMID: 26201030
2.  SIRT1 Deficiency in Microglia Contributes to Cognitive Decline in Aging and Neurodegeneration via Epigenetic Regulation of IL-1β 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2015;35(2):807-818.
Aging is the predominant risk factor for neurodegenerative diseases. One key phenotype as the brain ages is an aberrant innate immune response characterized by proinflammation. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying aging-associated proinflammation are poorly defined. Whether chronic inflammation plays a causal role in cognitive decline in aging and neurodegeneration has not been established. Here we report a mechanistic link between chronic inflammation and aging microglia and a causal role of aging microglia in neurodegenerative cognitive deficits. We showed that SIRT1 is reduced with the aging of microglia and that microglial SIRT1 deficiency has a causative role in aging- or tau-mediated memory deficits via IL-1β upregulation in mice. Interestingly, the selective activation of IL-1β transcription by SIRT1 deficiency is likely mediated through hypomethylating the specific CpG sites on IL-1β proximal promoter. In humans, hypomethylation of IL-1β is strongly associated with chronological age and with elevated IL-1β transcription. Our findings reveal a novel epigenetic mechanism in aging microglia that contributes to cognitive deficits in aging and neurodegenerative diseases.
PMCID: PMC4293425  PMID: 25589773
epigenetic; innate immunity; interleukin; memory deficits; neuroinflammation; NF-κ B
3.  Younger age of dementia diagnosis in a Hispanic population in southern California 
Prior studies of U.S. Hispanics, largely performed on the east coast, have found a younger age of dementia onset than in white non-Hispanics. We performed a cross-sectional study to examine clinical and socio-demographic variables associated with age of dementia diagnosis in aged Hispanics and white, non-Hispanics in southern California.
Two hundred ninety (110 Hispanic and 180 white non-Hispanic) community dwelling, cognitively symptomatic subjects, age 50 years and older, were assessed and diagnosed with probable Alzheimer’s disease or probable vascular dementia. Apolipoprotein E genotype (APOE) was assessed in a subset of cases. Analysis of variance and multiple stepwise linear regression were used to assess main effects and interactions of ethnicity with dementia severity (indexed by Mini-Mental Status Exam scores) and other socio-demographic and clinical variables on age of dementia diagnosis.
Hispanics were younger by an average of 4 years at the time of diagnosis, regardless of dementia subtype, despite a similar prevalence of the APOE ε4 genotype. The earlier age at diagnosis for Hispanics was not explained by gender, dementia severity, years of education, history of hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, or diabetes. Only ethnicity was significantly associated with age of onset.
These findings confirm that U.S. Hispanics living in the southwestern U.S. tend to be younger at the time of dementia diagnosis than their white non-Hispanic counterparts. As this is not explained by presence of the APOE ε4 genotype, further studies should explore other cultural, medical or genetic risk factors influencing the age of dementia onset in this population.
PMCID: PMC4013239  PMID: 24478258
Age; diagnosis; onset; Hispanic; Latino; Dementia; Alzheimer’s disease; APOE genotype; diagnosis; vascular dementia
4.  Hydroxamic Acid-Based Histone Deacetylase (HDAC) Inhibitors Can Mediate Neuroprotection Independent of HDAC Inhibition 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2014;34(43):14328-14337.
Histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibition improves function and extends survival in rodent models of a host of neurological conditions, including stroke, and neurodegenerative diseases. Our understanding, however, of the contribution of individual HDAC isoforms to neuronal death is limited. In this study, we used selective chemical probes to assess the individual roles of the Class I HDAC isoforms in protecting Mus musculus primary cortical neurons from oxidative death. We demonstrated that the selective HDAC8 inhibitor PCI-34051 is a potent neuroprotective agent; and by taking advantage of both pharmacological and genetic tools, we established that HDAC8 is not critically involved in PCI-34051's mechanism of action. We used BRD3811, an inactive ortholog of PCI-34051, and showed that, despite its inability to inhibit HDAC8, it exhibits robust neuroprotective properties. Furthermore, molecular deletion of HDAC8 proved insufficient to protect neurons from oxidative death, whereas both PCI-34051 and BRD3811 were able to protect neurons derived from HDAC8 knock-out mice. Finally, we designed and synthesized two new, orthogonal negative control compounds, BRD9715 and BRD8461, which lack the hydroxamic acid motif and showed that they stably penetrate cell membranes but are not neuroprotective. These results indicate that the protective effects of these hydroxamic acid-containing small molecules are likely unrelated to direct epigenetic regulation via HDAC inhibition, but rather due to their ability to bind metals. Our results suggest that hydroxamic acid-based HDAC inhibitors may mediate neuroprotection via HDAC-independent mechanisms and affirm the need for careful structure–activity relationship studies when using pharmacological approaches.
PMCID: PMC4205555  PMID: 25339746
HDAC inhibitors; HDAC8; hydroxamic acids; neuroprotection; oxidative stress; PCI-34051
5.  A novel mutation P112H in the TARDBP gene associated with frontotemporal lobar degeneration without motor neuron disease and abundant neuritic amyloid plaques 
Although TDP-43 is the main constituent of the ubiquitinated cytoplasmic inclusions in the most common forms of frontotemporal lobar degeneration, TARDBP mutations are not a common cause of familial frontotemporal dementia, especially in the absence of motor neuron disease.
We describe a pedigree presenting with a complex autosomal dominant disease, with a heterogeneous clinical phenotype, comprising unspecified dementia, parkinsonism, frontotemporal dementia and motor neuron disease. Genetic analyses identified a novel P112H TARDBP double variation located in exon 3 coding for the first RNA recognition motif of the protein (RRM1). This double mutation is probably pathogenic based on neuropathological findings, in silico prediction analysis and exome sequencing. The two autopsied siblings described here presented with frontotemporal dementia involving multiple cognitive domains and behavior but lacking symptoms of motor neuron disease throughout the disease course. The siblings presented with strikingly similar, although atypical, neuropathological features, including an unclassifiable TDP-43 inclusion pattern, a high burden of tau-negative β-amyloid neuritic plaques with an AD-like biochemical profile, and an unclassifiable 4-repeat tauopathy. The co-occurrence of multiple protein inclusions points to a pathogenic mechanism that facilitates misfolded protein interaction and aggregation or a loss of TDP-43 function that somehow impairs protein clearance.
TARDBP mutation screening should be considered in familial frontotemporal dementia cases, even without signs or symptoms of motor neuron disease, especially when other more frequent causes of genetic frontotemporal dementia (i.e. GRN, C9ORF72, MAPT) have been excluded and when family history is complex and includes parkinsonism, motor neuron disease and frontotemporal dementia. Further investigations in this family may provide insight into the physiological functions of TARDBP.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s40478-015-0190-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4382926  PMID: 25853458
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Frontotemporal dementia; Motor neuron disease; TDP-43; TARDBP; Postmortem
6.  Decision tree analysis of genetic risk for clinically heterogeneous Alzheimer’s disease 
BMC Neurology  2015;15:47.
Heritability of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is estimated at 74% and genetic contributors have been widely sought. The ε4 allele of apolipoprotein E (APOE) remains the strongest common risk factor for AD, with numerous other common variants contributing only modest risk for disease. Variability in clinical presentation of AD, which is typically amnestic (AmnAD) but can less commonly involve visuospatial, language and/or dysexecutive syndromes (atypical or AtAD), further complicates genetic analyses. Taking a multi-locus approach may increase the ability to identify individuals at highest risk for any AD syndrome. In this study, we sought to develop and investigate the utility of a multi-variant genetic risk assessment on a cohort of phenotypically heterogeneous patients with sporadic AD clinical diagnoses.
We genotyped 75 variants in our cohort and, using a two-staged study design, we developed a 17-marker AD risk score in a Discovery cohort (n = 59 cases, n = 133 controls) then assessed its utility in a second Validation cohort (n = 126 cases, n = 150 controls). We also performed a data-driven decision tree analysis to identify genetic and/or demographic criteria that are most useful for accurately differentiating all AD cases from controls.
We confirmed APOE ε4 as a strong risk factor for AD. A 17-marker risk panel predicted AD significantly better than APOE genotype alone (P < 0.00001) in the Discovery cohort, but not in the Validation cohort. In decision tree analyses, we found that APOE best differentiated cases from controls only in AmnAD but not AtAD. In AtAD, HFE SNP rs1799945 was the strongest predictor of disease; variation in HFE has previously been implicated in AD risk in non-ε4 carriers.
Our study suggests that APOE ε4 remains the best predictor of broad AD risk when compared to multiple other genetic factors with modest effects, that phenotypic heterogeneity in broad AD can complicate simple polygenic risk modeling, and supports the association between HFE and AD risk in individuals without APOE ε4.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12883-015-0304-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4459447  PMID: 25880661
Alzheimer’s disease; Genetics; Decision tree analysis
7.  Cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, leads to EGR2-dependent anergy in activated encephalitogenic T cells 
Cannabidiol (CBD), the main non-psychoactive cannabinoid, has been previously shown by us to ameliorate clinical symptoms and to decrease inflammation in myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG)35-55-induced mouse experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis model of multiple sclerosis as well as to decrease MOG35-55-induced T cell proliferation and IL-17 secretion. However, the mechanisms of CBD anti-inflammatory activities are unclear.
Here we analyzed the effects of CBD on splenocytes (source of accessory T cells and antigen presenting cells (APC)) co-cultured with MOG35-55-specific T cells (TMOG) and stimulated with MOG35-55. Using flow cytometry, we evaluated the expression of surface activation markers and inhibitory molecules on T cells and B cells. TMOG cells were purified using CD4 positive microbead selection and submitted for quantitative PCR and microarray of mRNA transcript analyzes. Cell signaling studies in purified TMOG were carried out using immunoblotting.
We found that CBD leads to upregulation of CD69 and lymphocyte-activation gene 3 (LAG3) regulatory molecules on CD4+CD25− accessory T cells. This subtype of CD4+CD25−CD69+LAG3+ T cells has been recognized as induced regulatory phenotype promoting anergy in activated T cells. Indeed, we observed that CBD treatment results in upregulation of EGR2 (a key T cell anergy inducer) mRNA transcription in stimulated TMOG cells. This was accompanied by elevated levels of anergy promoting genes such as IL-10 (anti-inflammatory cytokine), STAT5 (regulatory factor), and LAG3 mRNAs, as well as of several enhancers of cell cycle arrest (such as Nfatc1, Casp4, Cdkn1a, and Icos). Moreover, CBD exposure leads to a decrease in STAT3 and to an increase in STAT5 phosphorylation in TMOG cells, positive and negative regulators of Th17 activity, respectively. In parallel, we observed decreased levels of major histocompatibility complex class II (MHCII), CD25, and CD69 on CD19+ B cells following CBD treatment, showing diminished antigen presenting capabilities of B cells and reduction in their pro-inflammatory functions.
Our data suggests that CBD exerts its immunoregulatory effects via induction of CD4+CD25−CD69+LAG3+ cells in MOG35-55-activated APC/TMOG co-cultures. This is accompanied by EGR2-dependent anergy of stimulated TMOG cells as well as a switch in their intracellular STAT3/STAT5 activation balance leading to the previously observed decrease in Th17 activity.
PMCID: PMC4363052  PMID: 25880134
Cannabidiol; Memory T cells; LAG3; CD69; EGR2; T cell anergy
8.  Apolipoprotein ε4 Is Associated with Lower Brain Volume in Cognitively Normal Chinese but Not White Older Adults 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(3):e0118338.
Studying ethnically diverse groups is important for furthering our understanding of biological mechanisms of disease that may vary across human populations. The ε4 allele of apolipoprotein E (APOE ε4) is a well-established risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and may confer anatomic and functional effects years before clinical signs of cognitive decline are observed. The allele frequency of APOE ε4 varies both across and within populations, and the size of the effect it confers for dementia risk may be affected by other factors. Our objective was to investigate the role APOE ε4 plays in moderating brain volume in cognitively normal Chinese older adults, compared to older white Americans. We hypothesized that carrying APOE ε4 would be associated with reduced brain volume and that the magnitude of this effect would be different between ethnic groups. We performed whole brain analysis of structural MRIs from Chinese living in America (n = 41) and Shanghai (n = 30) and compared them to white Americans (n = 71). We found a significant interaction effect of carrying APOE ε4 and being Chinese. The APOE ε4xChinese interaction was associated with lower volume in bilateral cuneus and left middle frontal gyrus (Puncorrected<0.001), with suggestive findings in right entorhinal cortex and left hippocampus (Puncorrected<0.01), all regions that are associated with neurodegeneration in AD. After correction for multiple testing, the left cuneus remained significantly associated with the interaction effect (PFWE = 0.05). Our study suggests there is a differential effect of APOE ε4 on brain volume in Chinese versus white cognitively normal elderly adults. This represents a novel finding that, if verified in larger studies, has implications for how biological, environmental and/or lifestyle factors may modify APOE ε4 effects on the brain in diverse populations.
PMCID: PMC4349764  PMID: 25738563
9.  Divergent CSF tau alterations in two common tauopathies: Alzheimer’s disease and Progressive Supranuclear Palsy 
Elevated CSF tau is considered a biomarker of neuronal injury in newly developed Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) criteria. However, previous studies have failed to detect alterations of tau species in other primary tauopathies. We assessed CSF tau protein abnormalities in AD, a tauopathy with prominent Aβ pathology, and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), a primary tauopathy characterized by deposition of four microtubule binding repeat (4R) tau with minimal Aβ pathology.
26 normal control (NC), 37 AD, and 24 PSP patients participated in the study. AD and PSP were matched for severity using the clinical dementia rating sum of boxes (CDR-sb) scores. The INNO BIA AlzBio3 multiplex immunoassay was used to measure CSF Aβ, total tau, and ptau181. Additional, novel ELISAs targeting different N-terminal and central tau epitopes were developed to examine CSF tau components and to investigate interactions between diagnostic group, demographics, and genetic variables.
PSP had lower CSF N-terminal and C-terminal tau concentrations than NC and AD measured with both the novel tau ELISAs and the standard AlzBio3 tau and ptau assays. AD had higher total tau and ptau levels than NC and PSP. There was a gender by diagnosis interaction in both AD and PSP for most tau species, with lower concentrations for male compared to female patients.
CSF tau fragment concentrations are different in PSP compared with AD despite the presence of severe tau pathology and neuronal injury in both disorders. CSF tau concentration likely reflects multiple factors in addition to the degree of neuronal injury.
PMCID: PMC4256124  PMID: 24899730
Alzheimer’s disease; Progressive supranuclear palsy; CSF; Tau
10.  Variation in longevity gene KLOTHO is associated with greater cortical volumes 
Identifying genetic variation associated with brain structures in aging may elucidate new biologic mechanisms underlying resilience to cognitive decline. We investigated whether carrying one copy of the protective haplotype “KL-VS” in longevity gene KLOTHO (KL) is associated with greater gray matter volume in healthy human aging compared to carrying no copies.
We performed unbiased whole-brain analysis in cognitively normal older adults from two independent cohorts to assess the relationship between KL-VS and gray matter volume using voxel-based morphometry.
We found that KL-VS heterozygosity was associated with greater volume in right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (rDLPFC). Because rDLPFC is important for executive function, we analyzed working memory and processing speed in individuals. KL-VS heterozygosity was associated with enhanced executive function. Larger rDLPFC volume correlated with better executive function across the lifespan examined. Statistical analysis suggested that volume partially mediates the effect of genotype on cognition.
These results suggest that variation in KL is associated with bigger brain volume and better function.
PMCID: PMC4369272  PMID: 25815349
11.  A novel PSEN1 Mutation (I238M) associated with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in an African-American woman 
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.
PMCID: PMC3972314  PMID: 24413619
autosomal dominant; Alzheimer’s disease; PSEN1; Presenilin-1; familial; PIB-PET; African; gamma-secretase; in-vitro; Aβ42
12.  The 5-HTTLPR Polymorphism in the Serotonin Transporter Gene Moderates the Association between Emotional Behavior and Changes in Marital Satisfaction over Time 
Emotion (Washington, D.C.)  2013;13(6):1068-1079.
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 influences.
PMCID: PMC4067734  PMID: 24098925
Emotional behavior; genetic polymorphisms; 5-HTTLPR; relationships
13.  Neurodegenerative disease phenotypes in carriers of MAPT p.A152T, a risk factor for frontotemporal dementia spectrum disorders and Alzheimer's disease 
Alzheimer disease and associated disorders  2013;27(4):10.1097/WAD.0b013e31828cc357.
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.
PMCID: PMC3796183  PMID: 23518664
All Cognitive Disorders/Dementia; Alzheimer's disease; Frontotemporal Dementia; Corticobasal degeneration; Progressive Supranuclear Palsy
14.  Epigenetics of Alzheimer’s Disease and Frontotemporal Dementia 
Neurotherapeutics  2013;10(4):709-721.
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.
PMCID: PMC3805876  PMID: 24150812
Neurodegeneration; Epigenetics; Alzheimer’s disease; Frontotemporal dementia; Epigenetic drugs; Therapy
15.  Life extension factor klotho enhances cognition 
Cell reports  2014;7(4):1065-1076.
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.
PMCID: PMC4176932  PMID: 24813892
16.  TDP-43 Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration and Autoimmune Disease 
Journal of neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry  2013;84(9):10.1136/jnnp-2012-304644.
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.
Case control.
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.
Outcome Measures
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.
PMCID: PMC3840954  PMID: 23543794
17.  Novel Roles for Osteopontin and Clusterin in Peripheral Motor and Sensory Axon Regeneration 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2014;34(5):1689-1700.
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.
PMCID: PMC3905142  PMID: 24478351
18.  A shift in microglial β-amyloid binding in Alzheimer’s disease is associated with cerebral amyloid angiopathy 
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.
PMCID: PMC3586773  PMID: 23134465
19.  Progranulin mutations as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease 
JAMA neurology  2013;70(6):774-778.
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.
PMCID: PMC3743672  PMID: 23609919
20.  Mutations in SLC20A2 are a major cause of familial idiopathic basal ganglia calcification 
Neurogenetics  2013;14(1):11-22.
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.
PMCID: PMC4023541  PMID: 23334463
Basal ganglia calcification; Fahr’s; Genetics; Sequencing; Mutations
21.  CSF neurofilament concentration reflects disease severity in frontotemporal degeneration 
Annals of neurology  2014;75(1):116-126.
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.
PMCID: PMC4020786  PMID: 24242746
22.  C9ORF72 repeat expansions in cases with previously identified pathogenic mutations 
Neurology  2013;81(15):1332-1341.
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.
PMCID: PMC3806926  PMID: 24027057
23.  New Genes and New Insights from Old Genes: Update on Alzheimer Disease 
Continuum : Lifelong Learning in Neurology  2013;19(2 Dementia):358-371.
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.
PMCID: PMC3915548  PMID: 23558482
24.  Greater medial temporal hypometabolism and lower cortical amyloid burden in ApoE4-positive AD patients 
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.
PMCID: PMC3946299  PMID: 23965289
Alzheimer’s disease; PET; amyloid; glucose metabolism; apolipoprotein E
25.  An Epigenetic Signature in Peripheral Blood Associated with the Haplotype on 17q21.31, a Risk Factor for Neurodegenerative Tauopathy 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(3):e1004211.
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.
Author Summary
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.
PMCID: PMC3945475  PMID: 24603599

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