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1.  Genetic screening and functional characterization of PDGFRB mutations associated with Basal Ganglia Calcification of Unknown Etiology 
Human mutation  2014;35(8):964-971.
Three causal genes for Idiopathic Basal Ganglia Calcification (IBGC) have been identified. Most recently, mutations in PDGFRB, encoding a member of the platelet-derived growth factor receptor family type β, and PDGFB, encoding PDGF-B, the specific ligand of PDGFRβ, were found implicating the PDGF-B/PDGFRβ pathway in abnormal brain calcification. In this study we aimed to identify and study mutations in PDGFRB and PDGFB in a series of 26 patients from the Mayo Clinic Florida Brain Bank with moderate to severe basal ganglia calcification (BCG) of unknown etiology. No mutations in PDGFB were found. However, we identified one mutation in PDGFRB, p.R695C located in the tyrosine kinase domain, in one BGC patient. We further studied the function of p.R695C mutant PDGFRβ and two previously reported mutants, p.L658P and p.R987W PDGFRβ in cell culture. We show that, in response to PDGF-BB stimulation, the p.L658P mutation completely suppresses PDGFRβ autophosphorylation whereas the p.R695C mutation results in partial loss of autophosphorylation. For the p.R987W mutation, our data suggest a different mechanism involving reduced protein levels. These genetic and functional studies provide the first insight into the pathogenic mechanisms associated with PDGFRB mutations and provide further support for a pathogenic role of PDGFRB mutations in BGC.
PMCID: PMC4107018  PMID: 24796542
Basal Ganglia Calcification; BGC; IBGC; Fahr disease; PDGFRB; PDGFB
2.  Genome-wide association study of corticobasal degeneration identifies risk variants shared with progressive supranuclear palsy 
Nature communications  2015;6:7247.
Corticobasal degeneration (CBD) is a neurodegenerative disorder affecting movement and cognition, definitively diagnosed only at autopsy. Here we conduct a GWAS in CBD cases (n = 152) and 3,311 controls, and 67 CBD cases and 439 controls in a replication stage. Associations with meta-analysis were 17q21 at MAPT (P = 1.42 × 10−12), 8p12 at lnc-KIF13B-1, a long non-coding RNA (rs643472; P = 3.41 × 10−8), and 2p22 at SOS1 (rs963731; P = 1.76 × 10−7). Testing for association of CBD with top PSP GWAS SNPs identified associations at MOBP (3p22; rs1768208; P = 2.07 × 10−7) and MAPT H1c (17q21; rs242557; P = 7.91 × 10−6). We previously reported SNP/transcript level associations with rs8070723/MAPT, rs242557/MAPT, and rs1768208/MOBP and herein identified association with rs963731/SOS1. We identify new CBD susceptibility loci and show that CBD and PSP share a genetic risk factor other than MAPT, at 3p22 MOBP (myelin-associated oligodendrocytic protein).
PMCID: PMC4469997  PMID: 26077951
3.  Progranulin protein levels are differently regulated in plasma and CSF 
Neurology  2014;82(21):1871-1878.
We aimed to investigate the relationship between plasma and CSF progranulin (PGRN) levels.
Plasma and CSF PGRN were measured in a cohort of 345 subjects from the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging by ELISA. Single nucleotide polymorphism genotyping was performed using TaqMan assays. Associations between PGRN and sex, age at sample collection, diagnosis, single nucleotide polymorphism genotypes (GRN, SORT1, and APOE), and Pittsburgh compound B score were explored separately in CSF and plasma using single variable linear regression models. Pearson partial correlation coefficient was used to estimate the correlation of PGRN in CSF and plasma.
Plasma (p = 0.0031) and CSF (p = 0.0044) PGRN significantly increased with age, whereas plasma PGRN levels were 7% lower (p = 0.0025) and CSF PGRN levels 5% higher (p = 0.0024) in male compared with female participants. Correcting for age and sex, higher plasma PGRN was associated with higher CSF PGRN (partial r = 0.17, p = 0.004). In plasma, both rs5848 (GRN; p = 0.002) and rs646776 (SORT1; p = 3.56E-7) were associated with PGRN, while only rs5848 showed highly significant association in CSF (p = 5.59E-14). Age, sex, rs5848 genotype, and plasma PGRN together accounted for only 18% of the variability observed in CSF PGRN.
While some correlation exists between plasma and CSF PGRN, age, sex, and genetic factors differently affect PGRN levels. Therefore, caution should be taken when using plasma PGRN to predict PGRN changes in the brain. These findings further highlight that plasma PGRN levels may not accurately predict clinical features or response to future frontotemporal lobar degeneration therapies.
PMCID: PMC4105255  PMID: 24771538
4.  TMEM106B protects C9ORF72 expansion carriers against frontotemporal dementia 
Acta neuropathologica  2014;127(3):397-406.
Variants in transmembrane protein 106 B (TMEM106B) modify the disease penetrance of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) in carriers of progranulin (GRN) mutations. We investigated whether TMEM106B is also a genetic modifier of disease in carriers of chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72) expansions. We assessed the genotype of 325 C9ORF72 expansion carriers (cohort 1), 586 FTD patients lacking C9ORF72 expansions (with or without motor neuron disease [MND]; cohort 2), and a total of 1,302 controls for TMEM106B variants (rs3173615 and rs1990622) using MassArray iPLEX and Taqman genotyping assays. For our primary analysis, we focused on functional variant rs3173615, and employed a recessive genotypic model. In cohort 1, patients with C9ORF72 expansions showed a significantly reduced frequency of carriers homozygous for the minor allele as compared to controls (11.9% versus 19.1%, odds ratio (OR): 0.57, p=0.014; same direction as carriers of GRN mutations). The strongest evidence was provided by FTD patients (OR: 0.33, p=0.009) followed by FTD/MND patients (OR: 0.38, p=0.017), whereas no significant difference was observed in MND patients (OR: 0.85, p=0.55). In cohort 2, the frequency of carriers homozygous for the minor allele was not significantly reduced in patients as compared to controls (OR: 0.77, p=0.079); however, a significant reduction was observed when focusing on those patients with frontotemporal lobar degeneration and TAR DNA-binding protein 43 inclusions (FTLD-TDP; OR: 0.26, p<0.001).
Our study identifies TMEM106B as the first genetic factor modifying disease presentation in C9ORF72 expansion carriers. Homozygosity for the minor allele protects carriers from developing FTD, but not from developing MND; similar effects are seen in FTLD-TDP patients with yet unknown genetic causes. These new findings show that the protective effects of TMEM106B are not confined to carriers of GRN mutations, and might be relevant for prognostic testing, and as a promising therapeutic target for the entire spectrum of FTLD-TDP.
PMCID: PMC3944829  PMID: 24385136
C9ORF72; TMEM106B; frontotemporal dementia; motor neuron disease; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; disease modifier
5.  Associations of repeat sizes with clinical and pathological characteristics in C9ORF72 expansion carriers (Xpansize-72): a cross-sectional cohort study 
Lancet neurology  2013;12(10):10.1016/S1474-4422(13)70210-2.
Hexanucleotide repeat expansions in chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72) are currently the major genetic cause of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and motor neuron disease (MND). Presently, it is unknown whether expansion size affects disease severity or phenotypes.
We performed a cross-sectional Southern blot characterization study (Xpansize-72) in a cohort of subjects obtained at the Mayo Clinic and Banner Sun Health Research Institute. All subjects carried GGGGCC repeat expansions in C9ORF72, and high quality DNA was available from the frontal cortex, cerebellum and/or blood. Southern blotting techniques and densitometry were employed to estimate the repeat size of the most abundant expansion species. Comparisons of repeat sizes between tissues were made using Wilcoxon rank sum and Wilcoxon signed rank tests, and between disease subgroups using Kruskal-Wallis rank sum tests. The association of repeat size with age at onset and age at collection was evaluated using a Spearman’s test of correlation; whereas the association between repeat size and survival after disease onset was examined using Cox proportional hazards regression models.
Our cohort consisted of 84 C9ORF72 expansion carriers, including FTD patients (n=35), FTD/MND patients (n=16), MND patients (n=30), and unaffected subjects (n=3). We focused our analysis on three major tissue subgroups: frontal cortex (41 subjects [21 FTD, 11 FTD/MND, 9 MND]), cerebellum (40 subjects [20 FTD, 12 FTD/MND, 8 MND]), and blood (50 subjects [15 FTD, 9 FTD/MND, 23 MND, 3 unaffected expansion carriers]). Repeat lengths in the cerebellum were significantly smaller (median 12·3 kb [~1667 repeat units], IQR 11·1–14·3) than in the frontal cortex (median 33·8 kb [~5250 repeat units], IQR 23·5–44·9, p<0·0001), or in blood (median 18·6 kb [~2717 repeat units], IQR 13·9–28·1, p=0·0002). Within these tissues, there was no significant difference in repeat length between disease subgroups (cerebellum p=0·96, frontal cortex p=0·27, blood p=0·10). In the frontal cortex of FTD patients, repeat length correlated with age at onset (r=0·63, p=0·003) and age at collection (r=0·58, p=0·006); this correlation was not detected in the cerebellum or blood. Finally, only in the cerebellum, survival after disease onset was poorer in patients from our overall cohort with repeat lengths greater than 1467 repeat units (25th percentile, HR 3·27, 95% CI 1·34–7·95, p=0·009): the median survival was 4·8 years (IQR 3·0–7·4) in the group with longer expansions versus 7·4 years (IQR 6·3–10·9) in the group with smaller expansions.
Substantial variation in repeat size is observed between cerebellum, frontal cortex, and blood; relatively long repeat sizes in the cerebellum confer an important survival disadvantage. Our findings indicate that expansion size does affect disease severity, which could be relevant for genetic counseling.
PMCID: PMC3879782  PMID: 24011653
6.  TMEM106B p.T185S regulates TMEM106B protein levels: implications for frontotemporal dementia 
Journal of neurochemistry  2013;126(6):781-791.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is the second leading cause of dementia in individuals under age 65. In many patients, the predominant pathology includes neuronal cytoplasmic or intranuclear inclusions of ubiquitinated TAR DNA binding protein 43 (FTLDTDP). Recently, a genome-wide association study identified the first FTLD-TDP genetic risk factor, in which variants in and around the TMEM106B gene (top SNP rs1990622) were significantly associated with FTLD-TDP risk. Intriguingly, the most significant association was in FTLD-TDP patients carrying progranulin (GRN) mutations. Here we investigated to what extent the coding variant, rs3173615 (p.T185S) in linkage disequilibrium with rs1990622, affects progranulin protein (PGRN) biology and TMEM106B protein regulation.
First, we confirmed the association of TMEM106B variants with FTLD-TDP in a new cohort of GRN mutation carriers. We next generated and characterized a TMEM106B-specific antibody for investigation of this protein. Enzyme-linked immunoassay analysis of PGRN levels showed similar effects upon T185 and S185 TMEM106B overexpression. However, overexpression of T185 consistently led to higher TMEM106B protein levels than S185. Cycloheximide treatment experiments revealed that S185 degrades faster than T185 TMEM106B, potentially due to differences in N-glycosylation at residue N183. Together, our results provide a potential mechanism by which TMEM106B variants lead to differences in FTLD-TDP risk.
PMCID: PMC3766501  PMID: 23742080
TMEM106B; frontotemporal dementia; progranulin; glycosylation
7.  CSF1R mutations link POLD and HDLS as a single disease entity 
Neurology  2013;80(11):1033-1040.
Pigmented orthochromatic leukodystrophy (POLD) and hereditary diffuse leukoencephalopathy with axonal spheroids (HDLS) are rare neurodegenerative disorders characterized by cerebral white matter abnormalities, myelin loss, and axonal swellings. The striking overlap of clinical and pathologic features of these disorders suggested a common pathogenesis; however, no genetic or mechanistic link between POLD and HDLS has been established. Recently, we reported that mutations in the colony-stimulating factor 1 receptor (CSF1R) gene cause HDLS. In this study, we determined whether CSF1R mutations are also a cause of POLD.
We performed sequencing of CSF1R in 2 pathologically confirmed POLD families. For the largest family (FTD368), a detailed case report was provided and brain samples from 2 affected family members previously diagnosed with POLD were re-evaluated to determine whether they had HDLS features. In vitro functional characterization of wild-type and mutant CSF1R was also performed.
We identified CSF1R mutations in both POLD families: in family 5901, we found c.2297T>C (p.M766T), previously reported by us in HDLS family CA1, and in family FTD368, we identified c.2345G>A (p.R782H), recently reported in a biopsy-proven HDLS case. Immunohistochemical examination in family FTD368 showed the typical neuronal and glial findings of HDLS. Functional analyses of CSF1R mutant p.R782H (identified in this study) and p.M875T (previously observed in HDLS), showed a similar loss of CSF1R autophosphorylation of selected tyrosine residues in the kinase domain for both mutations when compared with wild-type CSF1R.
We provide the first genetic and mechanistic evidence that POLD and HDLS are a single clinicopathologic entity.
PMCID: PMC3653204  PMID: 23408870
8.  Targeted manipulation of the sortilin–progranulin axis rescues progranulin haploinsufficiency 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;23(6):1467-1478.
Progranulin (GRN) mutations causing haploinsufficiency are a major cause of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD-TDP). Recent discoveries demonstrating sortilin (SORT1) is a neuronal receptor for PGRN endocytosis and a determinant of plasma PGRN levels portend the development of enhancers targeting the SORT1–PGRN axis. We demonstrate the preclinical efficacy of several approaches through which impairing PGRN's interaction with SORT1 restores extracellular PGRN levels. Our report is the first to demonstrate the efficacy of enhancing PGRN levels in iPSC neurons derived from frontotemporal dementia (FTD) patients with PGRN deficiency. We validate a small molecule preferentially increases extracellular PGRN by reducing SORT1 levels in various mammalian cell lines and patient-derived iPSC neurons and lymphocytes. We further demonstrate that SORT1 antagonists and a small-molecule binder of PGRN588–593, residues critical for PGRN–SORT1 binding, inhibit SORT1-mediated PGRN endocytosis. Collectively, our data demonstrate that the SORT1–PGRN axis is a viable target for PGRN-based therapy, particularly in FTD-GRN patients.
PMCID: PMC3929086  PMID: 24163244
9.  Pathogenicity of exonic indels in fused in sarcoma in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 
Neurobiology of aging  2010;33(2):424.e23-424.e24.
Insertion and deletion variants (indels) within poly glycine tracts of fused in sarcoma (FUS) were initially reported as causative of disease in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Subsequent studies identified similar indels in controls and suggested that these indels may confer susceptibility to ALS. We aimed to elucidate the role of previously published and novel exonic indels in FUS in an extensive cohort of 630 ALS patients and 1063 controls. We detected indels in FUS exons 5, 6, 12 and 14 with similar frequencies in patients (0.95%) and controls (0.75%). Exonic indels in poly glycine tracts were also observed with similar frequencies. The largest indel (p.Gly138_Tyr143del) was observed in one control. In one patient, a 3 base pair deletion in exon 14 (p.Gly475del) was identified, however in-vitro studies did not reveal abnormal localization of p.Gly475del mutant FUS. These findings suggest that not all exonic indels in FUS cause disease.
PMCID: PMC3130814  PMID: 21074900
10.  Expanded GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat in non-coding region of C9ORF72 causes chromosome 9p-linked frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 
Neuron  2011;72(2):245-256.
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.
PMCID: PMC3202986  PMID: 21944778
11.  Hippocampal sclerosis in the elderly: genetic and pathologic findings, some mimicking Alzheimer disease clinically 
Hippocampal sclerosis (HpScl) in the elderly is often associated with neurodegeneration.
We studied the clinical and pathologic features of HpScl in 205 consecutive patients with dementia who came to autopsy from 1997 to 2008, focusing on associations with TDP-43 pathology and allelic variants in the progranulin (GRN) and apolipoprotein E (APOE).
Of the 205 dementia patients, 28 had HpScl (14%). TDP-43 pathology was more frequent in cases with HpScl compared to those without HpScl (89% vs. 24%). GRN rs5848 T-allele but not APOE ε4 was associated with HpScl. In cases of HpScl with TDP-43 pathology and age of onset after 75 (n=11), 8 had AD-like amnestic syndrome, but most (6/8) had pathology not consistent with AD (Braak stage III or less), including 4 with frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD-TDP), 1 with diffuse Lewy body disease and 1 with “pure HpScl.”
HpScl is common in an elderly cohort with dementia, occurring in 14% of the cases in this series, and 89% have TDP-43 pathology, often associated with a risk variant in GRN. Patients with HpScl who present after age 75 often have presentations consistent with AD, but at autopsy have non-Alzheimer pathologies. Elderly patients with HpScl may be mistaken for AD.
PMCID: PMC3107353  PMID: 21346515
12.  Mutations in the colony stimulating factor 1 receptor (CSF1R) cause hereditary diffuse leukoencephalopathy with spheroids 
Nature genetics  2011;44(2):200-205.
Hereditary diffuse leukoencephalopathy with spheroids (HDLS) is an autosomal dominantly inherited central nervous system white matter disease with variable clinical presentations including personality and behavioral changes, dementia, depression, parkinsonism, seizures, and others1,2. We combined genome-wide linkage analysis with exome sequencing and identified 14 different mutations affecting the tyrosine kinase domain of the colony stimulating factor receptor 1 (encoded by CSF1R) in 14 families affected by HDLS. In one kindred, the de novo occurrence of the mutation was confirmed. Follow-up sequencing analyses identified an additional CSF1R mutation in a patient clinically diagnosed with corticobasal syndrome (CBS). In vitro, CSF-1 stimulation resulted in the rapid autophosphorylation of selected tyrosine-residues in the kinase domain of wild-type but not mutant CSF1R, suggesting that HDLS may result from a partial loss of CSF1R function. Since CSF1R is a critical mediator of microglial proliferation and differentiation in the brain, our findings suggest an important role for microglial dysfunction in HDLS pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3267847  PMID: 22197934
13.  C9ORF72 repeat expansions and other FTD gene mutations in a clinical AD patient series from Mayo Clinic 
Alzheimer disease (AD) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) are two frequent forms of primary neurodegenerative dementias with overlapping clinical symptoms. Pathogenic mutations of the amyloid precursor protein (APP) and presenilins 1 and 2 (PSEN1, PSEN2) genes have been linked to familial early-onset forms of AD; however, more recently mutations in the common FTD genes encoding the microtubule associated protein tau (MAPT), progranulin (GRN) and C9ORF72, have also been reported in clinically diagnosed AD patients. To access the contribution of mutations in a well-characterized series of patients, we systematically performed genetic analyses of these EOAD and FTD genes in a novel cohort of 227 unrelated probands clinically diagnosed as probable AD which were ascertained at Mayo Clinic Florida between 1997 and 2011. All patients showed first symptoms of dementia before 70 years. We identified 9 different pathogenic mutations in the EOAD genes in a total of 11 patients explaining 4.8% of the patient population. Two mutations were novel: PSEN1 p.Pro218Leu and PSEN2 p.Phe183Ser. Importantly, mutations were also identified in all FTD genes: one patient carried a MAPT p.R406W mutation, one patient carried the p.Arg198Glyfs19X loss-of-function mutation in GRN and two patients were found to carry expanded GGGGCC repeats in the non-coding region of C9ORF72. Together the FTD genes explained the disease in 1.8% of our probable AD population. The identification of mutations in all major FTD genes in this novel cohort of clinically diagnosed AD patients underlines the challenges associated with the differential diagnosis of AD and FTD resulting from overlapping symptomatology and has important implications for molecular diagnostic testing and genetic counseling of clinically diagnosed AD patients. Our findings suggest that in clinically diagnosed AD patients, genetic analyses should include not only the well-established EOAD genes APP, PSEN1 and PSEN2 but also genes that are usually associated with FTD. Finally, the overall low frequency of mutation carriers observed in our study (6.6%) suggests the involvement of other as yet unknown genetic factors associated with AD.
PMCID: PMC3560455  PMID: 23383383
Alzheimer’s disease; frontotemporal dementia; amyloid precursor protein; presenilin 1; presenilin 2; progranulin; microtubule associated protein tau; C9ORF72; mutation; diagnosis.
Journal of Molecular Neuroscience  2011;45(3):532-537.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is a common neurodegenerative disorder that predominantly affects individuals under the age of 65. It is known that the most common pathological subtype is FTLD with TAR DNA-binding protein 43 inclusions (FTLD-TDP). FTLD has a strong genetic component with about 50% of cases having a positive family history. Mutations identified in the progranulin gene (GRN) have been shown to cause FTLD-TDP as a result of progranulin haploinsufficiency. These findings suggest a progranulin-dependent mechanism in this pathological FTLD subtype. Thus, identifying regulators of progranulin levels is essential for new therapies and treatments for FTLD and related disorders. In this review, we discuss the role of genetic studies in identifying progranulin regulators, beginning with the discovery of pathogenic GRN mutations and additional GRN risk variants. We also cover more recent genetic advances, including the detection of variants in the transmembrane protein 106 B gene that increase FTLD-TDP risk presumably by modulating progranulin levels and the identification of a potential progranulin receptor, sortilin. This review highlights the importance of genetic studies in the context of FTLD and further emphasizes the need for future genetic and cell biology research to continue the effort in finding a cure for progranulin-related diseases.
PMCID: PMC3310391  PMID: 21626010
progranulin; genetics; FTLD; TDP-43; TMEM106B; sortilin
15.  Altered microRNA expression in frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43 pathology caused by progranulin mutations 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:527.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that can be triggered through genetic or sporadic mechanisms. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have become a major therapeutic focus as their pervasive expression and powerful regulatory roles in disease pathogenesis become increasingly apparent. Here we examine the role of miRNAs in FTLD patients with TAR DNA-binding protein 43 pathology (FTLD-TDP) caused by genetic mutations in the progranulin (PGRN) gene.
Using miRNA array profiling, we identified the 20 miRNAs that showed greatest evidence (unadjusted P < 0.05) of dysregulation in frontal cortex of eight FTLD-TDP patients carrying PGRN mutations when compared to 32 FTLD-TDP patients with no apparent genetic abnormalities. Quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) analyses provided technical validation of the differential expression for 9 of the 20 miRNAs in frontal cortex. Additional qRT-PCR analyses showed that 5 out of 9 miRNAs (miR-922, miR-516a-3p, miR-571, miR-548b-5p, and miR-548c-5p) were also significantly dysregulated (unadjusted P < 0.05) in cerebellar tissue samples of PGRN mutation carriers, consistent with a systemic reduction in PGRN levels. We developed a list of gene targets for the 5 candidate miRNAs and found 18 genes dysregulated in a reported FTLD mRNA study to exhibit anti-correlated miRNA-mRNA patterns in affected cortex and cerebellar tissue. Among the targets is brain-specific angiogenesis inhibitor 3, which was recently identified as an important player in synapse biology.
Our study suggests that miRNAs may contribute to the pathogenesis of FTLD-TDP caused by PGRN mutations and provides new insight into potential future therapeutic options.
PMCID: PMC3229715  PMID: 22032330
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; TDP-43; microRNA; progranulin
16.  De Novo Truncating FUS Gene Mutation as a Cause of Sporadic Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis 
Human mutation  2010;31(5):E1377-E1389.
Mutations in the gene encoding fused in sarcoma (FUS) were recently identified as a novel cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), emphasizing the genetic heterogeneity of ALS. We sequenced the genes encoding superoxide dismutase (SOD1), TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TARDBP) and FUS in 99 sporadic and 17 familial ALS patients ascertained at Mayo Clinic. We identified two novel mutations in FUS in two out of 99 (2.0%) sporadic ALS patients and established the de novo occurrence of one FUS mutation. In familial patients, we identified three (17.6%) SOD1 mutations, while FUS and TARDBP mutations were excluded. The de novo FUS mutation (g.10747A>G; IVS13-2A>G) affects the splice-acceptor site of FUS intron 13 and was shown to induce skipping of FUS exon 14 leading to the C-terminal truncation of FUS (p.G466VfsX14). Subcellular localization studies showed a dramatic increase in the cytoplasmic localization of FUS and a reduction of normal nuclear expression in cells transfected with truncated compared to wild-type FUS. We further identified a novel in-frame insertion/deletion mutation in FUS exon 12 (p.S402 P411delinsGGGG) which is predicted to expand a conserved poly-glycine motif. Our findings extend the mutation spectrum in FUS leading to ALS and describe the first de novo mutation in FUS.
PMCID: PMC2922682  PMID: 20232451
FUS/TLS; fused in sarcoma; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; de novo mutation; FUS splice-site mutation; FUS truncating mutation
17.  Plasma progranulin levels predict progranulin mutation status in frontotemporal dementia patients and asymptomatic family members 
Brain  2009;132(3):583-591.
Mutations in the progranulin gene (GRN) are an important cause of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) with ubiquitin and TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP43)-positive pathology. The clinical presentation associated with GRN mutations is heterogeneous and may include clinical probable Alzheimer's disease. All GRN mutations identified thus far cause disease through a uniform disease mechanism, i.e. the loss of functional GRN or haploinsufficiency. To determine if expression of GRN in plasma could predict GRN mutation status and could be used as a biological marker, we optimized a GRN ELISA and studied plasma samples of a consecutive clinical FTLD series of 219 patients, 70 control individuals, 72 early-onset probable Alzheimer's disease patients and nine symptomatic and 18 asymptomatic relatives of GRN mutation families. All FTLD patients with GRN loss-of-function mutations showed significantly reduced levels of GRN in plasma to about one third of the levels observed in non-GRN carriers and control individuals (P < 0.001). No overlap in distributions of GRN levels was observed between the eight GRN loss-of-function mutation carriers (range: 53–94 ng/ml) and 191 non-GRN mutation carriers (range: 115–386 ng/ml). Similar low levels of GRN were identified in asymptomatic GRN mutation carriers. Importantly, ELISA analyses also identified one probable Alzheimer's disease patient (1.4%) carrying a loss-of-function mutation in GRN. Biochemical analyses further showed that the GRN ELISA only detects full-length GRN, no intermediate granulin fragments. This study demonstrates that using a GRN ELISA in plasma, pathogenic GRN mutations can be accurately detected in symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers. The ∼75% reduction in full-length GRN, suggests an unbalanced GRN metabolism in loss-of-function mutation carriers whereby more GRN is processed into granulins. We propose that plasma GRN levels could be used as a reliable and inexpensive tool to identify all GRN mutation carriers in early-onset dementia populations and asymptomatic at-risk individuals.
PMCID: PMC2664450  PMID: 19158106
Progranulin; ELISA; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Alzheimer's disease
18.  Novel Mutations in TARDBP (TDP-43) in Patients with Familial Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis 
PLoS Genetics  2008;4(9):e1000193.
The TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43) has been identified as the major disease protein in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitin inclusions (FTLD-U), defining a novel class of neurodegenerative conditions: the TDP-43 proteinopathies. The first pathogenic mutations in the gene encoding TDP-43 (TARDBP) were recently reported in familial and sporadic ALS patients, supporting a direct role for TDP-43 in neurodegeneration. In this study, we report the identification and functional analyses of two novel and one known mutation in TARDBP that we identified as a result of extensive mutation analyses in a cohort of 296 patients with variable neurodegenerative diseases associated with TDP-43 histopathology. Three different heterozygous missense mutations in exon 6 of TARDBP (p.M337V, p.N345K, and p.I383V) were identified in the analysis of 92 familial ALS patients (3.3%), while no mutations were detected in 24 patients with sporadic ALS or 180 patients with other TDP-43–positive neurodegenerative diseases. The presence of p.M337V, p.N345K, and p.I383V was excluded in 825 controls and 652 additional sporadic ALS patients. All three mutations affect highly conserved amino acid residues in the C-terminal part of TDP-43 known to be involved in protein-protein interactions. Biochemical analysis of TDP-43 in ALS patient cell lines revealed a substantial increase in caspase cleaved fragments, including the ∼25 kDa fragment, compared to control cell lines. Our findings support TARDBP mutations as a cause of ALS. Based on the specific C-terminal location of the mutations and the accumulation of a smaller C-terminal fragment, we speculate that TARDBP mutations may cause a toxic gain of function through novel protein interactions or intracellular accumulation of TDP-43 fragments leading to apoptosis.
Author Summary
The abnormal accumulation of disease proteins in neuronal cells of the brain is a characteristic feature of many neurodegenerative diseases. Rare mutations in the genes that encode the accumulating proteins have been identified in these disorders and are crucial for the development of cell and animal models used to study neurodegeneration. Recently, the TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43) was identified as the disease accumulating protein in patients with frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitin inclusions (FTLD-U) and in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). TDP-43 was also found in the brains of 20–30% of patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD). Here, we evaluated whether mutations in TDP-43 cause disease in a cohort of 296 patients presenting with FTLD, ALS or AD. We identified three missense mutations in three out of 92 familial ALS patients (3.3%), and no mutations in AD or FTLD patients. All the identified mutations clustered in exon 6, which codes for a highly conserved region in the C-terminal part of the TDP-43 protein, which is known to be involved in the interaction of TDP-43 with other proteins. We conclude that mutations in TDP-43 are a rare cause of familial ALS, but so far are not found in other neurodegenerative diseases.
PMCID: PMC2527686  PMID: 18802454
19.  Progranulin regulates neuronal outgrowth independent of Sortilin 
Progranulin (PGRN), a widely secreted growth factor, is involved in multiple biological functions, and mutations located within the PGRN gene (GRN) are a major cause of frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43-positive inclusions (FLTD-TDP). In light of recent reports suggesting PGRN functions as a protective neurotrophic factor and that sortilin (SORT1) is a neuronal receptor for PGRN, we used a Sort1-deficient (Sort1−/−) murine primary hippocampal neuron model to investigate whether PGRN’s neurotrophic effects are dependent on SORT1. We sought to elucidate this relationship to determine what role SORT1, as a regulator of PGRN levels, plays in modulating PGRN’s neurotrophic effects.
As the first group to evaluate the effect of PGRN loss in Grn knockout primary neuronal cultures, we show neurite outgrowth and branching are significantly decreased in Grn−/− neurons compared to wild-type (WT) neurons. More importantly, we also demonstrate that PGRN overexpression can rescue this phenotype. However, the recovery in outgrowth is not observed following treatment with recombinant PGRN harboring missense mutations p.C139R, p.P248L or p.R432C, indicating that these mutations adversely affect the neurotrophic properties of PGRN. In addition, we also present evidence that cleavage of full-length PGRN into granulin peptides is required for increased neuronal outgrowth, suggesting that the neurotrophic functions of PGRN are contained within certain granulins. To further characterize the mechanism by which PGRN impacts neuronal morphology, we assessed the involvement of SORT1. We demonstrate that PGRN induced-outgrowth occurs in the absence of SORT1 in Sort1−/− cultures.
We demonstrate that loss of PGRN impairs proper neurite outgrowth and branching, and that exogenous PGRN alleviates this impairment. Furthermore, we determined that exogenous PGRN induces outgrowth independent of SORT1, suggesting another receptor(s) is involved in PGRN induced neuronal outgrowth.
PMCID: PMC3508877  PMID: 22781549
Progranulin; Sortilin; Neuronal outgrowth; Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Neurotrophic factor
20.  Common variation in the miR-659 binding-site of GRN is a major risk factor for TDP43-positive frontotemporal dementia 
Human Molecular Genetics  2008;17(23):3631-3642.
Loss-of-function mutations in progranulin (GRN) cause ubiquitin- and TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43)-positive frontotemporal dementia (FTLD-U), a progressive neurodegenerative disease affecting ∼10% of early-onset dementia patients. Here we expand the role of GRN in FTLD-U and demonstrate that a common genetic variant (rs5848), located in the 3′-untranslated region (UTR) of GRN in a binding-site for miR-659, is a major susceptibility factor for FTLD-U. In a series of pathologically confirmed FTLD-U patients without GRN mutations, we show that carriers homozygous for the T-allele of rs5848 have a 3.2-fold increased risk to develop FTLD-U compared with homozygous C-allele carriers (95% CI: 1.50–6.73). We further demonstrate that miR-659 can regulate GRN expression in vitro, with miR-659 binding more efficiently to the high risk T-allele of rs5848 resulting in augmented translational inhibition of GRN. A significant reduction in GRN protein was observed in homozygous T-allele carriers in vivo, through biochemical and immunohistochemical methods, mimicking the effect of heterozygous loss-of-function GRN mutations. In support of these findings, the neuropathology of homozygous rs5848 T-allele carriers frequently resembled the pathological FTLD-U subtype of GRN mutation carriers. We suggest that the expression of GRN is regulated by miRNAs and that common genetic variability in a miRNA binding-site can significantly increase the risk for FTLD-U. Translational regulation by miRNAs may represent a common mechanism underlying complex neurodegenerative disorders.
PMCID: PMC2581433  PMID: 18723524

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