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1.  Parkinson’s disease-implicated kinases in the brain; insights into disease pathogenesis 
Substantial evidence implicates abnormal protein kinase function in various aspects of Parkinson’s disease (PD) etiology. Elevated phosphorylation of the PD-defining pathological protein, α-synuclein, correlates with its aggregation and toxic accumulation in neurons, whilst genetic missense mutations in the kinases PTEN-induced putative kinase 1 and leucine-rich repeat kinase 2, increase susceptibility to PD. Experimental evidence also links kinases of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase and mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling pathways, amongst others, to PD. Understanding how the levels or activities of these enzymes or their substrates change in brain tissue in relation to pathological states can provide insight into disease pathogenesis. Moreover, understanding when and where kinase dysfunction occurs is important as modulation of some of these signaling pathways can potentially lead to PD therapeutics. This review will summarize what is currently known in regard to the expression of these PD-implicated kinases in pathological human postmortem brain tissue.
PMCID: PMC4068290  PMID: 25009465
kinase; LRRK2; JNK; PLK; PINK1; GAK; MAPK; brain
2.  Aspects of Innate Immunity and Parkinson’s Disease 
Genetic studies on PARK genes have identified dysfunction in proteasomal, lysosomal, and mitochondrial enzymes as pathogenic for Parkinson’s disease (PD). We review the role of these and similar enzymes in mediating innate immune signaling. In particular, we have identified that a number of PARK gene products as well as other enzymes have roles in innate immune signaling as well as DNA repair and regulation, ubiquitination, mitochondrial functioning, and synaptic trafficking. PD enzymatic dysfunction is likely to contribute to inadequate innate immune responses to a variety of extra- and intra-cellular stimuli, with a number of the innate immunity related enzymes found in the characteristic Lewy body pathology of PD. The decrease in innate immunity in PD is associated with an increase in markers of adaptive immunity, and recent GWAS studies have identified variants in human leukocyte antigen region as associated with late-onset sporadic PD (Hamza et al., 2010; Hill-Burns et al., 2011). Intriguing new data also suggest that peripheral immune responses may be involved, giving some potential to alleviate such peripheral dysfunction more directly in patients with PD. It is now important to identify the cell type specific immune responses contributing to the initial changes that occur in PD, as well as to the propagating immune responses important for the progression of PD pathology between cells and within the brain. Overall, a complex interplay between different types of immunity appear to be involved in the underlying pathology of PD.
PMCID: PMC3296959  PMID: 22408621
immunity; mitochondrial dysfunction; Parkinson’s disease; synapse dysfunction; ubiquitination
3.  High expression of long intervening non-coding RNA OLMALINC in the human cortical white matter is associated with regulation of oligodendrocyte maturation 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:2.
Long intervening non-coding RNAs (lincRNAs) are a recently discovered subclass of non-coding RNAs. LincRNAs are expressed across the mammalian genome and contribute to the pervasive transcription phenomenon. They display a tissue-specific and species-specific mode of expression and are present abundantly in the brain.
Here, we report the expression patterns of oligodendrocyte maturation-associated long intervening non-coding RNA (OLMALINC), which is highly expressed in the white matter (WM) of the human frontal cortex compared to the grey matter (GM) and peripheral tissues. Moreover, we identified a novel isoform of OLMALINC that was also up-regulated in the WM. RNA-interference (RNAi) knockdown of OLMALINC in oligodendrocytes, which are the major cell type in the WM, caused significant changes in the expression of genes regulating cytostructure, cell activation and membrane signaling. Gene ontology enrichment analysis revealed that over 10% of the top 25 up- and down-regulated genes were involved in oligodendrocyte maturation. RNAi experiments in neuronal cells resulted in the perturbation of genes controlling cell proliferation. Furthermore, we identified a novel cis-natural antisense non-coding RNA, which we named OLMALINC-AS, which maps to the first exon of the dominant isoform of OLMALINC.
Our study has demonstrated for the first time that a primate-specific lincRNA regulates the expression of genes critical to human oligodendrocyte maturation, which in turn might be regulated by an antisense counterpart.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13041-014-0091-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4302521  PMID: 25575711
Long intervening non-coding RNA; OLMALINC; Human brain; Frontal cortex; White and grey matter; Antisense RNA
4.  Genetic analysis implicates APOE, SNCA and suggests lysosomal dysfunction in the etiology of dementia with Lewy bodies 
Human molecular genetics  2014;23(23):6139-6146.
Clinical and neuropathological similarities between dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases (PD and AD, respectively) suggest that these disorders may share etiology. To test this hypothesis, we have performed an association study of 54 genomic regions, previously implicated in PD or AD, in a large cohort of DLB cases and controls. The cohort comprised 788 DLB cases and 2624 controls. To minimize the issue of potential misdiagnosis, we have also performed the analysis including only neuropathologically proven DLB cases (667 cases). The results show that the APOE is a strong genetic risk factor for DLB, confirming previous findings, and that the SNCA and SCARB2 loci are also associated after a study-wise Bonferroni correction, although these have a different association profile than the associations reported for the same loci in PD. We have previously shown that the p.N370S variant in GBA is associated with DLB, which, together with the findings at the SCARB2 locus, suggests a role for lysosomal dysfunction in this disease. These results indicate that DLB has a unique genetic risk profile when compared with the two most common neurodegenerative diseases and that the lysosome may play an important role in the etiology of this disorder. We make all these data available.
PMCID: PMC4222357  PMID: 24973356
5.  Exploring Myelin Dysfunction in Multiple System Atrophy 
Experimental Neurobiology  2014;23(4):337-344.
Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is a rare, yet fatal neurodegenerative disease that presents clinically with autonomic failure in combination with parkinsonism or cerebellar ataxia. MSA impacts on the autonomic nervous system affecting blood pressure, heart rate and bladder function, and the motor system affecting balance and muscle movement. The cause of MSA is unknown, no definitive risk factors have been identified, and there is no cure or effective treatment. The definitive pathology of MSA is the presence of α-synuclein aggregates in the brain and therefore MSA is classified as an α-synucleinopathy, together with Parkinson's disease and dementia with Lewy bodies. Although the molecular mechanisms of misfolding, fibrillation and aggregation of α-synuclein partly overlap with other α-synucleinopathies, the pathological pathway of MSA is unique in that the principal site for α-synuclein deposition is in the oligodendrocytes rather than the neurons. The sequence of pathological events of MSA is now recognized as abnormal protein redistributions in oligodendrocytes first, followed by myelin dysfunction and then neurodegeneration. Oligodendrocytes are responsible for the production and maintenance of myelin, the specialized lipid membrane that encases the axons of all neurons in the brain. Myelin is composed of lipids and two prominent proteins, myelin basic protein and proteolipid protein. In vitro studies suggest that aberration in protein distribution and lipid transport may lead to myelin dysfunction in MSA. The purpose of this perspective is to bring together available evidence to explore the potential role of α-synuclein, myelin protein dysfunction, lipid dyshomeostasis and ABCA8 in MSA pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4276804  PMID: 25548533
Multiple system atrophy; oligodendrocyte; α-synuclein; myelin; lipid dyshomeostasis
6.  Altered lipid levels provide evidence for myelin dysfunction in multiple system atrophy 
Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is a rapidly-progressive neurodegenerative disease characterized by parkinsonism, cerebellar ataxia and autonomic failure. A pathological hallmark of MSA is the presence of α-synuclein deposits in oligodendrocytes, the myelin-producing support cells of the brain. Brain pathology and in vitro studies indicate that myelin instability may be an early event in the pathogenesis of MSA. Lipid is a major constituent (78% w/w) of myelin and has been implicated in myelin dysfunction in MSA. However, changes, if any, in lipid level/distribution in MSA brain are unknown. Here, we undertook a comprehensive analysis of MSA myelin. We quantitatively measured three groups of lipids, sphingomyelin, sulfatide and galactosylceramide, which are all important in myelin integrity and function, in affected (under the motor cortex) and unaffected (under the visual cortex) white matter regions. For all three groups of lipids, most of the species were severely decreased (40–69%) in affected but not unaffected MSA white matter. An analysis of the distribution of lipid species showed no significant shift in fatty acid chain length/content with MSA. The decrease in lipid levels was concomitant with increased α-synuclein expression. These data indicate that the absolute levels, and not distribution, of myelin lipids are altered in MSA, and provide evidence for myelin lipid dysfunction in MSA pathology. We propose that dysregulation of myelin lipids in the course of MSA pathogenesis may trigger myelin instability.
PMCID: PMC4228091  PMID: 25358962
Multiple system atrophy; Myelin; Lipid; α-synuclein; Sphingomyelin; Sulfatide; Galactosylceramide; MSA white matter
7.  Alpha-synuclein biology in Lewy body diseases 
α-Synuclein is an abundantly expressed neuronal protein that is at the center of focus in understanding a group of neurodegenerative disorders called α-synucleinopathies, which are characterized by the presence of aggregated α-synuclein intracellularly. Primary α-synucleinopathies include Parkinson’s disease (PD), dementia with Lewy bodies and multiple system atrophy, with α-synuclein also found secondarily in a number of other diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease. Understanding how α-synuclein aggregates form in these different disorders is important for the understanding of its pathogenesis in Lewy body diseases. PD is the most prevalent of the α-synucleinopathies and much of the initial research on α-synuclein Lewy body pathology was based on PD but is also relevant to Lewy bodies in other diseases (dementia with Lewy bodies and Alzheimer’s disease). Polymorphism and mutation studies of SNCA, the gene that encodes α-synuclein, provide much evidence for a causal link between α-synuclein and PD. Among the primary α-synucleinopathies, multiple system atrophy is unique in that α-synuclein deposition occurs in oligodendrocytes rather than neurons. It is unclear whether α-synuclein originates from oligodendrocytes or whether it is transmitted somehow from neurons. α-Synuclein exists as a natively unfolded monomer in the cytosol, but in the presence of lipid membranes it is thought to undergo a conformational change to a folded α-helical secondary structure that is prone to forming dimers and oligomers. Posttranslational modification of α-synuclein, such as phosphorylation, ubiquitination and nitration, has been widely implicated in α-synuclein aggregation process and neurotoxicity. Recent studies using animal and cell models, as well as autopsy studies of patients with neuron transplants, provided compelling evidence for prion-like propagation of α-synuclein. This observation has implications for therapeutic strategies, and much recent effort is focused on developing antibodies that target extracellular α-synuclein.
PMCID: PMC4288216  PMID: 25580161
8.  Time to Redefine PD? Introductory Statement of the MDS Task Force on the Definition of Parkinson’s Disease 
With advances in knowledge disease, boundaries may change. Occasionally, these changes are of such a magnitude that they require redefinition of the disease. In recognition of the profound changes in our understanding of Parkinson’s disease (PD), the International Parkinson and Movement Disorders Society (MDS) commissioned a task force to consider a redefinition of PD. This review is a discussion article, intended as the introductory statement of the task force. Several critical issues were identified that challenge current PD definitions. First, new findings challenge the central role of the classical pathologic criteria as the arbiter of diagnosis, notably genetic cases without synuclein deposition, the high prevalence of incidental Lewy body (LB) deposition, and the nonmotor prodrome of PD. It remains unclear, however, whether these challenges merit a change in the pathologic gold standard, especially considering the limitations of alternate gold standards. Second, the increasing recognition of dementia in PD challenges the distinction between diffuse LB disease and PD. Consideration might be given to removing dementia as an exclusion criterion for PD diagnosis. Third, there is increasing recognition of disease heterogeneity, suggesting that PD subtypes should be formally identified; however, current subtype classifications may not be sufficiently robust to warrant formal delineation. Fourth, the recognition of a nonmotor prodrome of PD requires that new diagnostic criteria for early-stage and prodromal PD should be created; here, essential features of these criteria are proposed. Finally, there is a need to create new MDS diagnostic criteria that take these changes in disease definition into consideration.
PMCID: PMC4204150  PMID: 24619848
redefinition of PD; gold standard; subtypes; disease heterogeneity; nonmotor prodrome; MDS diagnostic criteria
9.  Mutations in protein N-arginine methyltransferases are not the cause of FTLD-FUS 
Neurobiology of aging  2013;34(9):2235.e11-2235.e13.
The nuclear protein fused in sarcoma (FUS) is found in cytoplasmic inclusions in a subset of patients with the neurodegenerative disorder frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD-FUS). FUS contains a methylated arginine-glycine-glycine domain which is required for transport into the nucleus. Recent findings have shown that this domain is hypomethylated in patients with FTLD-FUS. To determine if the cause of hypomethylation is the result of mutations in protein N-arginine methyltransferases (PRMTs), we selected 3 candidate genes (PRMT1, PRMT3 and PRMT8) and performed complete sequencing analysis and real-time PCR mRNA expression analysis in 20 FTLD-FUS cases. No mutations or statistically significant changes in expression were observed in our patient samples, suggesting that defects in PRMTs are not the cause of FTLD-FUS.
PMCID: PMC3683824  PMID: 23635657
10.  Systems-Based Analyses of Brain Regions Functionally Impacted in Parkinson's Disease Reveals Underlying Causal Mechanisms 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e102909.
Detailed analysis of disease-affected tissue provides insight into molecular mechanisms contributing to pathogenesis. Substantia nigra, striatum, and cortex are functionally connected with increasing degrees of alpha-synuclein pathology in Parkinson's disease. We undertook functional and causal pathway analysis of gene expression and proteomic alterations in these three regions, and the data revealed pathways that correlated with disease progression. In addition, microarray and RNAseq experiments revealed previously unidentified causal changes related to oligodendrocyte function and synaptic vesicle release, and these and other changes were reflected across all brain regions. Importantly, subsets of these changes were replicated in Parkinson's disease blood; suggesting peripheral tissue may provide important avenues for understanding and measuring disease status and progression. Proteomic assessment revealed alterations in mitochondria and vesicular transport proteins that preceded gene expression changes indicating defects in translation and/or protein turnover. Our combined approach of proteomics, RNAseq and microarray analyses provides a comprehensive view of the molecular changes that accompany functional loss and alpha-synuclein pathology in Parkinson's disease, and may be instrumental to understand, diagnose and follow Parkinson's disease progression.
PMCID: PMC4149353  PMID: 25170892
11.  Cerebellar Integrity in the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis - Frontotemporal Dementia Continuum 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e105632.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) are multisystem neurodegenerative disorders that manifest overlapping cognitive, neuropsychiatric and motor features. The cerebellum has long been known to be crucial for intact motor function although emerging evidence over the past decade has attributed cognitive and neuropsychiatric processes to this structure. The current study set out i) to establish the integrity of cerebellar subregions in the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia spectrum (ALS-bvFTD) and ii) determine whether specific cerebellar atrophy regions are associated with cognitive, neuropsychiatric and motor symptoms in the patients. Seventy-eight patients diagnosed with ALS, ALS-bvFTD, behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), most without C9ORF72 gene abnormalities, and healthy controls were investigated. Participants underwent cognitive, neuropsychiatric and functional evaluation as well as structural imaging using voxel-based morphometry (VBM) to examine the grey matter subregions of the cerebellar lobules, vermis and crus. VBM analyses revealed: i) significant grey matter atrophy in the cerebellum across the whole ALS-bvFTD continuum; ii) atrophy predominantly of the superior cerebellum and crus in bvFTD patients, atrophy of the inferior cerebellum and vermis in ALS patients, while ALS-bvFTD patients had both patterns of atrophy. Post-hoc covariance analyses revealed that cognitive and neuropsychiatric symptoms were particularly associated with atrophy of the crus and superior lobule, while motor symptoms were more associated with atrophy of the inferior lobules. Taken together, these findings indicate an important role of the cerebellum in the ALS-bvFTD disease spectrum, with all three clinical phenotypes demonstrating specific patterns of subregional atrophy that associated with different symptomology.
PMCID: PMC4140802  PMID: 25144223
12.  Disease duration and the integrity of the nigrostriatal system in Parkinson’s disease 
Brain  2013;136(8):2419-2431.
The pace of nigrostriatal degeneration, both with regards to striatal denervation and loss of melanin and tyrosine hydroxylase-positive neurons, is poorly understood especially early in the Parkinson’s disease process. This study investigated the extent of nigrostriatal degeneration in patients with Parkinson’s disease at different disease durations from time of diagnosis. Brains of patients with Parkinson’s disease (n = 28) with post-diagnostic intervals of 1–27 years and normal elderly control subjects (n = 9) were examined. Sections of the post-commissural putamen and substantia nigra pars compacta were processed for tyrosine hydroxylase and dopamine transporter immunohistochemistry. The post-commissural putamen was selected due to tissue availability and the fact that dopamine loss in this region is associated with motor disability in Parkinson’s disease. Quantitative assessments of putaminal dopaminergic fibre density and stereological estimates of the number of melanin-containing and tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta (both in total and in subregions) were performed by blinded investigators in cases where suitable material was available (n = 17). Dopaminergic markers in the dorsal putamen showed a modest loss at 1 year after diagnosis in the single case available for study. There was variable (moderate to marked) loss, at 3 years. At 4 years post-diagnosis and thereafter, there was virtually complete loss of staining in the dorsal putamen with only an occasional abnormal dopaminergic fibre detected. In the substantia nigra pars compacta, there was a 50–90% loss of tyrosine hydroxylase-positive neurons from the earliest time points studied with only marginal additional loss thereafter. There was only a ∼10% loss of melanized neurons in the one case evaluated 1 year post-diagnosis, and variable (30 to 60%) loss during the first several years post-diagnosis with more gradual and subtle loss in the second decade. At all time points, there were more melanin-containing than tyrosine hydroxylase-positive cells. Loss of dopaminergic markers in the dorsal putamen occurs rapidly and is virtually complete by 4 years post-diagnosis. Loss of melanized nigral neurons lags behind the loss of dopamine markers. These findings have important implications for understanding the nature of Parkinson’s disease neurodegeneration and for studies of putative neuroprotective/restorative therapies.
PMCID: PMC3722357  PMID: 23884810
Parkinsons disease; human brain; morphometry; substantia nigra; neuroscience
13.  Genetic analysis implicates APOE, SNCA and suggests lysosomal dysfunction in the etiology of dementia with Lewy bodies 
Human Molecular Genetics  2014;23(23):6139-6146.
Clinical and neuropathological similarities between dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases (PD and AD, respectively) suggest that these disorders may share etiology. To test this hypothesis, we have performed an association study of 54 genomic regions, previously implicated in PD or AD, in a large cohort of DLB cases and controls. The cohort comprised 788 DLB cases and 2624 controls. To minimize the issue of potential misdiagnosis, we have also performed the analysis including only neuropathologically proven DLB cases (667 cases). The results show that the APOE is a strong genetic risk factor for DLB, confirming previous findings, and that the SNCA and SCARB2 loci are also associated after a study-wise Bonferroni correction, although these have a different association profile than the associations reported for the same loci in PD. We have previously shown that the p.N370S variant in GBA is associated with DLB, which, together with the findings at the SCARB2 locus, suggests a role for lysosomal dysfunction in this disease. These results indicate that DLB has a unique genetic risk profile when compared with the two most common neurodegenerative diseases and that the lysosome may play an important role in the etiology of this disorder. We make all these data available.
PMCID: PMC4222357  PMID: 24973356
14.  Lipid dysfunction and pathogenesis of multiple system atrophy 
Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease characterized by the accumulation of α-synuclein protein in the cytoplasm of oligodendrocytes, the myelin-producing support cells of the central nervous system (CNS). The brain is the most lipid-rich organ in the body and disordered metabolism of various lipid constituents is increasingly recognized as an important factor in the pathogenesis of several neurodegenerative diseases. α-Synuclein is a 17 kDa protein with a close association to lipid membranes and biosynthetic processes in the CNS, yet its precise function is a matter of speculation, particularly in oligodendrocytes. α-Synuclein aggregation in neurons is a well-characterized feature of Parkinson’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies. Epidemiological evidence and in vitro studies of α-synuclein molecular dynamics suggest that disordered lipid homeostasis may play a role in the pathogenesis of α-synuclein aggregation. However, MSA is distinct from other α-synucleinopathies in a number of respects, not least the disparate cellular focus of α-synuclein pathology. The recent identification of causal mutations and polymorphisms in COQ2, a gene encoding a biosynthetic enzyme for the production of the lipid-soluble electron carrier coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinone), puts membrane transporters as central to MSA pathogenesis, although how such transporters are involved in the early myelin degeneration observed in MSA remains unclear. The purpose of this review is to bring together available evidence to explore the potential role of membrane transporters and lipid dyshomeostasis in the pathogenesis of α-synuclein aggregation in MSA. We hypothesize that dysregulation of the specialized lipid metabolism involved in myelin synthesis and maintenance by oligodendrocytes underlies the unique neuropathology of MSA.
PMCID: PMC3922275  PMID: 24502382
Multiple system atrophy; Lipid; α-synuclein; Oligodendrocyte; COQ2; ABCA8
15.  Increased Ndfip1 in the Substantia Nigra of Parkinsonian Brains Is Associated with Elevated Iron Levels 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e87119.
Iron misregulation is a central component in the neuropathology of Parkinson's disease. The iron transport protein DMT1 is known to be increased in Parkinson's brains linking functional transport mechanisms with iron accumulation. The regulation of DMT1 is therefore critical to the management of iron uptake in the disease setting. We previously identified post-translational control of DMT1 levels through a ubiquitin-mediated pathway led by Ndfip1, an adaptor for Nedd4 family of E3 ligases. Here we show that loss of Ndfip1 from mouse dopaminergic neurons resulted in misregulation of DMT1 levels and increased susceptibility to iron induced death. We report that in human Parkinson's brains increased iron concentrations in the substantia nigra are associated with upregulated levels of Ndfip1 in dopaminergic neurons containing α-synuclein deposits. Additionally, Ndfip1 was also found to be misexpressed in astrocytes, a cell type normally devoid of this protein. We suggest that in Parkinson's disease, increased iron levels are associated with increased Ndfip1 expression for the regulation of DMT1, including abnormal Ndfip1 activation in non-neuronal cell types such as astrocytes.
PMCID: PMC3901732  PMID: 24475238
16.  Unique Transcriptome Patterns of the White and Grey Matter Corroborate Structural and Functional Heterogeneity in the Human Frontal Lobe 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e78480.
The human frontal lobe has undergone accelerated evolution, leading to the development of unique human features such as language and self-reflection. Cortical grey matter and underlying white matter reflect distinct cellular compositions in the frontal lobe. Surprisingly little is known about the transcriptomal landscape of these distinct regions. Here, for the first time, we report a detailed transcriptomal profile of the frontal grey (GM) and white matter (WM) with resolution to alternatively spliced isoforms obtained using the RNA-Seq approach. We observed more vigorous transcriptome activity in GM compared to WM, presumably because of the presence of cellular bodies of neurons in the GM and RNA associated with the nucleus and perinuclear space. Among the top differentially expressed genes, we also identified a number of long intergenic non-coding RNAs (lincRNAs), specifically expressed in white matter, such as LINC00162. Furthermore, along with confirmation of expression of known markers for neurons and oligodendrocytes, we identified a number of genes and splicing isoforms that are exclusively expressed in GM or WM with examples of GABRB2 and PAK2 transcripts, respectively. Pathway analysis identified distinct physiological and biochemical processes specific to grey and white matter samples with a prevalence of synaptic processes in GM and myelination regulation and axonogenesis in the WM. Our study also revealed that expression of many genes, for example, the GPR123, is characterized by isoform switching, depending in which structure the gene is expressed. Our report clearly shows that GM and WM have perhaps surprisingly divergent transcriptome profiles, reflecting distinct roles in brain physiology. Further, this study provides the first reference data set for a normal human frontal lobe, which will be useful in comparative transcriptome studies of cerebral disorders, in particular, neurodegenerative diseases.
PMCID: PMC3808538  PMID: 24194939
17.  C9ORF72 repeat expansion in clinical and neuropathologic frontotemporal dementia cohorts 
Neurology  2012;79(10):995-1001.
To determine the frequency of a hexanucleotide repeat expansion in C9ORF72, a gene of unknown function implicated in frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), in Australian FTD patient cohorts and to examine the clinical and neuropathologic phenotypes associated with this expansion.
We examined a clinically ascertained FTD cohort (n = 89) and a neuropathologically ascertained cohort of frontotemporal lobar degeneration cases with TDP-43 pathology (FTLD-TDP) (n = 22) for the C9ORF72 hexanucleotide repeat expansion using a repeat primed PCR assay. All expansion-positive patients were genotyped for rs3849942, a surrogate marker for the chromosome 9p21 risk haplotype previously associated with FTD and ALS.
The C9ORF72 repeat expansion was detected in 10% of patients in the clinically diagnosed cohort, rising to 29% in those with a positive family history of early-onset dementia or ALS. The prevalence of psychotic features was significantly higher in expansion-positive cases (56% vs 14%). In the pathology cohort, 41% of TDP-43-positive cases harbored the repeat expansion, and all exhibited type B pathology. One of the 17 expansion-positive probands was homozygous for the “nonrisk” G allele of rs3849942.
The C9ORF72 repeat expansion is a relatively common cause of FTD in Australian populations, and is especially common in those with FTD-ALS, psychotic features, and a strong family history. Detection of a repeat expansion on the 9p21 putative “nonrisk” haplotype suggests that not all mutation carriers are necessarily descended from a common founder and indicates that the expansion may have occurred on multiple haplotype backgrounds.
PMCID: PMC3430710  PMID: 22875086
18.  Endogenous progesterone levels and frontotemporal dementia: modulation of TDP-43 and Tau levels in vitro and treatment of the A315T TARDBP mouse model 
Disease Models & Mechanisms  2013;6(5):1198-1204.
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is associated with motor neurone disease (FTD-MND), corticobasal syndrome (CBS) and progressive supranuclear palsy syndrome (PSPS). Together, this group of disorders constitutes a major cause of young-onset dementia. One of the three clinical variants of FTD is progressive nonfluent aphasia (PNFA), which is focused on in this study. The steroid hormone progesterone (PROG) is known to have an important role as a neurosteroid with potent neuroprotective and promyelination properties. In a case-control study of serum samples (39 FTD, 91 controls), low serum PROG was associated with FTD overall. In subgroup analysis, low PROG levels were significantly associated with FTD-MND and CBS, but not with PSPS or PNFA. PROG levels of >195 pg/ml were significantly correlated with lower disease severity (frontotemporal dementia rating scale) for individuals with CBS. In the human neuroblastoma SK-N-MC cell line, exogenous PROG (9300–93,000 pg/ml) had a significant effect on overall Tau and nuclear TDP-43 levels, reducing total Tau levels by ∼1.5-fold and increasing nuclear TDP-43 by 1.7- to 2.0-fold. Finally, elevation of plasma PROG to a mean concentration of 5870 pg/ml in an Ala315Thr (A315T) TARDBP transgenic mouse model significantly reduced the rate of loss of locomotor control in PROG-treated, compared with placebo, mice. The PROG treatment did not significantly increase survival of the mice, which might be due to the limitation of the transgenic mouse to accurately model TDP-43-mediated neurodegeneration. Together, our clinical, cellular and animal data provide strong evidence that PROG could be a valid therapy for specific related disorders of FTD.
PMCID: PMC3759339  PMID: 23798570
19.  Elevation in Sphingomyelin Synthase Activity Is Associated with Increases in Amyloid-Beta Peptide Generation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e74016.
A pathological hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the presence of amyloid-beta peptide (Aβ) plaques in the brain. Aβ is derived from a sequential proteolysis of the transmenbrane amyloid precursor protein (APP), a process which is dependent on the distribution of lipids present in the plasma membrane. Sphingomyelin is a major membrane lipid, however its role in APP processing is unclear. Here, we assessed the expression of sphingomyelin synthase (SGMS1; the gene responsible for sphingomyelin synthesis) in human brain and found that it was significantly elevated in the hippocampus of AD brains, but not in the cerebellum. Secondly, we assessed the impact of altering SGMS activity on Aβ generation. Inhibition of SGMS activity significantly reduced the level of Aβ in a dose- and time dependent manner. The decrease in Aβ level occurred without changes in APP expression or cell viability. These results when put together indicate that SGMS activity impacts on APP processing to produce Aβ and it could be a contributing factor in Aβ pathology associated with AD.
PMCID: PMC3748018  PMID: 23977395
20.  Classification of FTLD-TDP cases into pathological subtypes using antibodies against phosphorylated and non-phosphorylated TDP43 
Two commercially available TDP43 antibodies (phosphorylated or pTDP43, non-phosphorylated or iTDP43) are currently in use for the neuropathological classification of FTLD-TDP cases into pathological subtypes. To date, no studies have performed direct comparisons between these TDP43 antibodies to determine if they identify the same FTLD-TDP subtypes. The reliability of subtype classification with the use of either of these antibodies has also not been investigated. The present study compares the severity of pathological lesions identified with pTDP43 and iTDP43 in a cohort of 14 FTLD-TDP cases, and assesses the accuracy and inter-observer reliability found with either of these antibodies.
pTDP43 identified a greater severity of pathological inclusions across FTLD-TDP cases in comparison to iTDP43 and a higher inter-observer of subtype classification was found with this antibody.
This study demonstrates a higher consistency across independent observers in the pathological subtyping of FTLD-TDP cases with the use of a pTDP43 antibody in comparison to the iTDP43 antibody, and corroborates the use of pTDP43 for pathological classification of FTLD-TDP cases.
PMCID: PMC4046675  PMID: 24252630
Pathological classification; TDP43; Frontotemporal dementia
21.  The pathogenesis of cingulate atrophy in behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer’s disease 
Early atrophy of the cingulate cortex is a feature of both behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), with degeneration of the anterior cingulate region increasingly recognized as a strong predictor of bvFTD. The total number of neurons in this region, rather than the density of neurons, is associated with mood disturbance in other dementias, although there are no data on the extent and magnitude of neuronal loss in patients with bvFTD. While the density of small populations of neurons in this region has been assessed, it is unlikely that the degree of atrophy of the cingulate cortex seen in bvFTD can be explained by the loss of these subpopulations. This suggests that there is more generalized degeneration of neurons in this region in bvFTD.
The present study assesses total neuronal number, as well as characteristic pathologies, in the anterior and posterior cingulate cortices of pathologically confirmed bvFTD (N = 11) and AD (N = 9) patients compared with age-matched controls (N = 14). The bvFTD cohort comprised 5 cases with tau pathology (Pick’s disease), and 6 with TDP-43 pathology.
At postmortem, atrophy was detected in the anterior and posterior cingulate cortices of bvFTD cases, but only in the posterior cingulate cortex of AD cases. As predicted, there was a significant reduction in both the density and total number of neurons in the anterior but not the posterior cingulate cortex of bvFTD cases with the opposite observed for the AD cases. Importantly, neuronal loss in the anterior cingulate cortex was only observed in cases with tau pathology.
This study confirms significant neuronal loss in the posterior but not anterior cingulate cortex in AD, and demonstrates that significant neuron loss in bvFTD occurs only in the anterior cingulate cortex but only in cases with tau pathology compared with cases with TDP pathology. We propose that significant neurodegeneration in the anterior cingulate cortex may be useful in differentiating the pathological subtypes in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3893385  PMID: 24252534
Anterior cingulate cortex; Posterior cingulate cortex; Behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia; Alzheimer’s disease; Tau; TDP-43
22.  ATP13A2 (PARK9) protein levels are reduced in brain tissue of cases with Lewy bodies 
ATP13A2 (PARK9) loss of function mutations are a genetic cause of an early-onset form of Parkinson’s disease (PD), with in vitro studies showing that ATP13A2 deficits lead to lysosomal and mitochondrial dysfunction and α-synuclein accumulation, while elevated ATP13A2 expression reduces α-synuclein toxicity. The three human brain tissue studies assessing changes in ATP13A2 expression in PD produced divergent results; mRNA is increased while protein levels were observed to be either increased or decreased. This apparent conflict in protein levels might have arisen from examining Lewy body disease cases with coexisting Alzheimer-type pathologies.
To assess whether ATP13A2 levels in Lewy body disease are modified by Alzheimer-type β-amyloid deposition, we evaluated cases of pure PD and pure dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) for changes in ATP13A2, α-synuclein and β-amyloid protein levels in cortical regions with and without Lewy bodies.
In all Lewy body disease cases, we identified decreased ATP13A2 protein levels that correlated with increases in both α-synuclein and β-amyloid. Partial colocalization was observed between ATP13A2 and α-synuclein in Lewy bodies, whereas ATP13A2 did not colocalize with pathological β-amyloid deposition.
Our data show that patients with Lewy body diseases have an overall deficit in ATP13A2 protein levels, with the remaining protein being more insoluble and partially redistributing towards Lewy bodies. This supports the concept that increasing ATP13A2 levels may offer potential therapeutic benefits to patients with Lewy body diseases.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/2051-5960-1-11) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4046687  PMID: 24252509
α-synuclein; ATP13A2; β-amyloid; Dementia with lewy bodies; PARK9; Parkinson’s disease; Protein levels
23.  FAS-Dependent Cell Death in α-Synuclein Transgenic Oligodendrocyte Models of Multiple System Atrophy 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e55243.
Multiple system atrophy is a parkinsonian neurodegenerative disorder. It is cytopathologically characterized by accumulation of the protein p25α in cell bodies of oligodendrocytes followed by accumulation of aggregated α-synuclein in so-called glial cytoplasmic inclusions. p25α is a stimulator of α-synuclein aggregation, and coexpression of α-synuclein and p25α in the oligodendroglial OLN-t40-AS cell line causes α-synuclein aggregate-dependent toxicity. In this study, we investigated whether the FAS system is involved in α-synuclein aggregate dependent degeneration in oligodendrocytes and may play a role in multiple system atrophy. Using rat oligodendroglial OLN-t40-AS cells we demonstrate that the cytotoxicity caused by coexpressing α-synuclein and p25α relies on stimulation of the death domain receptor FAS and caspase-8 activation. Using primary oligodendrocytes derived from PLP-α-synuclein transgenic mice we demonstrate that they exist in a sensitized state expressing pro-apoptotic FAS receptor, which makes them sensitive to FAS ligand-mediated apoptosis. Immunoblot analysis shows an increase in FAS in brain extracts from multiple system atrophy cases. Immunohistochemical analysis demonstrated enhanced FAS expression in multiple system atrophy brains notably in oligodendrocytes harboring the earliest stages of glial cytoplasmic inclusion formation. Oligodendroglial FAS expression is an early hallmark of oligodendroglial pathology in multiple system atrophy that mechanistically may be coupled to α-synuclein dependent degeneration and thus represent a potential target for protective intervention.
PMCID: PMC3555893  PMID: 23372841
24.  Frontotemporal dementia–amyotrophic lateral sclerosis syndrome locus on chromosome 16p12.1–q12.2: genetic, clinical and neuropathological analysis 
Acta Neuropathologica  2013;125(4):523-533.
Numerous families exhibiting both frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) have been described, and although many of these have been shown to harbour a repeat expansion in C9ORF72, several C9ORF72-negative FTD-ALS families remain. We performed neuropathological and genetic analysis of a large European Australian kindred (Aus-12) with autosomal dominant inheritance of dementia and/or ALS. Affected Aus-12 members developed either ALS or dementia; some of those with dementia also had ALS and/or extrapyramidal features. Neuropathology was most consistent with frontotemporal lobar degeneration with type B TDP pathology, but with additional phosphorylated tau pathology consistent with corticobasal degeneration. Aus-12 DNA samples were negative for mutations in all known dementia and ALS genes, including C9ORF72 and FUS. Genome-wide linkage analysis provided highly suggestive evidence (maximum multipoint LOD score of 2.9) of a locus on chromosome 16p12.1–16q12.2. Affected individuals shared a chromosome 16 haplotype flanked by D16S3103 and D16S489, spanning 37.9 Mb, with a smaller suggestive disease haplotype spanning 24.4 Mb defined by recombination in an elderly unaffected individual. Importantly, this smaller region does not overlap with FUS. Whole-exome sequencing identified four variants present in the maximal critical region that segregate with disease. Linkage analysis incorporating these variants generated a maximum multipoint LOD score of 3.0. These results support the identification of a locus on chromosome 16p12.1–16q12.2 responsible for an unusual cluster of neurodegenerative phenotypes. This region overlaps with a separate locus on 16q12.1–q12.2 reported in an independent ALS family, indicating that this region may harbour a second major locus for FTD-ALS.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00401-013-1078-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3611035  PMID: 23338750
Frontotemporal dementia; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Motor neuron disease; Corticobasal degeneration; Tau; TDP-43
25.  Genetic and Clinical Features of Progranulin-Associated Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration 
Archives of neurology  2011;68(4):488-497.
To assess the relative frequency of unique mutations and their associated characteristics in 97 individuals with mutations in progranulin (GRN), an important cause of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD).
Participants and Design
A 46-site International Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration Collaboration was formed to collect cases of FTLD with TAR DNA-binding protein of 43-kDa (TDP-43)–positive inclusions (FTLD-TDP). We identified 97 individuals with FTLD-TDP with pathogenic GRN mutations (GRN+ FTLD-TDP), assessed their genetic and clinical characteristics, and compared them with 453 patients with FTLD-TDP in which GRN mutations were excluded (GRN− FTLD-TDP). No patients were known to be related. Neuropathologic characteristics were confirmed as FTLD-TDP in 79 of the 97 GRN+ FTLDTDP cases and all of the GRN− FTLD-TDP cases.
Age at onset of FTLD was younger in patients with GRN+ FTLD-TDP vs GRN− FTLD-TDP (median, 58.0 vs 61.0 years; P<.001), as was age at death (median, 65.5 vs 69.0 years; P<.001). Concomitant motor neuron disease was much less common in GRN+ FTLDTDP vs GRN− FTLD-TDP (5.4% vs 26.3%; P<.001). Fifty different GRN mutations were observed, including 2 novel mutations: c.139delG (p.D47TfsX7) and c.378C>A (p.C126X). The 2 most common GRN mutations were c.1477C>T (p.R493X, found in 18 patients, representing 18.6% of GRN cases) and c.26C>A (p.A9D, found in 6 patients, representing 6.2% of cases). Patients with the c.1477C>T mutation shared a haplotype on chromosome 17; clinically, they resembled patients with other GRN mutations. Patients with the c.26C>A mutation appeared to have a younger age at onset of FTLD and at death and more parkinsonian features than those with other GRN mutations.
GRN+ FTLD-TDP differs in key features from GRN− FTLD-TDP.
PMCID: PMC3160280  PMID: 21482928

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