This pilot randomized trial tested an intervention aimed at enhancing resourcefulness in family caregivers of persons with dementia, postulating that caregivers' emotional outcomes (anxiety and depression) and role outcomes (reward, strain, mutuality, and preparedness) would be improved, and problem behaviors in the care recipients (persons with dementia) would be reduced as a result of the intervention. Subjects were stratified by race (white or African American) and by baseline resourcefulness (high or low). Family caregivers were randomly assigned to an intervention group in which subjects attended six resourcefulness training sessions, meeting for 2 hours weekly over 6 weeks, or to a control group that received no treatment. Small to medium effects were shown for the intervention program on resourcefulness, anxiety, and preparedness of the caregivers and on frequency of behavior problems in the care recipients. Caregivers in the intervention group reported significantly more resourcefulness skills, with a medium effect at week 6 and a small effect 12 weeks later, compared with the control group. Persons with dementia had fewer behavior problems in the intervention group compared with control, although the difference was not significant. Caregivers' anxiety was reduced in the intervention group at 12 weeks.
Hexanucleotide repeat expansions in chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72) are causative for frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and motor neuron disease (MND). Substantial phenotypic heterogeneity has been described in patients with these expansions. We set out to identify genetic modifiers of disease risk, age at onset, and survival after onset that may contribute to this clinical variability.
We examined a cohort of 330 C9ORF72 expansion carriers and 374 controls. In these individuals, we assessed variants previously implicated in FTD and/or MND; 36 variants were included in our analysis. After adjustment for multiple testing, our analysis revealed three variants significantly associated with age at onset (rs7018487 [UBAP1; p-value = 0.003], rs6052771 [PRNP; p-value = 0.003], and rs7403881 [MT-Ie; p-value = 0.003]), and six variants significantly associated with survival after onset (rs5848 [GRN; p-value = 0.001], rs7403881 [MT-Ie; p-value = 0.001], rs13268953 [ELP3; p-value = 0.003], the epsilon 4 allele [APOE; p-value = 0.004], rs12608932 [UNC13A; p-value = 0.003], and rs1800435 [ALAD; p-value = 0.003]).
Variants identified through this study were previously reported to be involved in FTD and/or MND, but we are the first to describe their effects as potential disease modifiers in the presence of a clear pathogenic mutation (i.e. C9ORF72 repeat expansion). Although validation of our findings is necessary, these variants highlight the importance of protein degradation, antioxidant defense and RNA-processing pathways, and additionally, they are promising targets for the development of therapeutic strategies and prognostic tests.
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C9ORF72; Frontotemporal dementia; Motor neuron disease; Genetic modifier; Repeat expansion
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.
Expansions of the non-coding GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat in the chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72) gene were recently identified as the long sought-after cause of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) on chromosome 9p. In this study we aimed to determine whether the length of the normal - unexpanded - allele of the GGGGCC repeat in C9ORF72 plays a role in the presentation of disease or affects age at onset in C9ORF72 mutation carriers. We also studied whether the GGGGCC repeat length confers risk or affects age at onset in FTD and ALS patients without C9ORF72 repeat expansions. C9ORF72 genotyping was performed in 580 FTD, 995 ALS and 160 FTD-ALS patients and 1444 controls, leading to the identification of 211 patients with pathogenic C9ORF72 repeat expansions and an accurate quantification of the length of the normal alleles in all patients and controls. No meaningful association between the repeat length of the normal alleles of the GGGGCC repeat in C9ORF72 and disease phenotype or age at onset was observed in C9ORF72 mutation carriers or non-mutation carriers.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Frontotemporal Dementia; C9ORF72; Repeat-expansion disease; Association study
Rare mutations in the gene encoding for tau (MAPT, microtubule-associated protein tau) cause frontotemporal dementia-spectrum (FTD-s) disorders, including FTD, progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and corticobasal syndrome, and a common extended haplotype spanning across the MAPT locus is associated with increased risk of PSP and Parkinson's disease. We identified a rare tau variant (p.A152T) in a patient with a clinical diagnosis of PSP and assessed its frequency in multiple independent series of patients with neurodegenerative conditions and controls, in a total of 15 369 subjects.
Tau p.A152T significantly increases the risk for both FTD-s (n = 2139, OR = 3.0, CI: 1.6–5.6, P = 0.0005) and Alzheimer's disease (AD) (n = 3345, OR = 2.3, CI: 1.3–4.2, P = 0.004) compared with 9047 controls. Functionally, p.A152T (i) decreases the binding of tau to microtubules and therefore promotes microtubule assembly less efficiently; and (ii) reduces the tendency to form abnormal fibers. However, there is a pronounced increase in the formation of tau oligomers. Importantly, these findings suggest that other regions of the tau protein may be crucial in regulating normal function, as the p.A152 residue is distal to the domains considered responsible for microtubule interactions or aggregation. These data provide both the first genetic evidence and functional studies supporting the role of MAPT p.A152T as a rare risk factor for both FTD-s and AD and the concept that rare variants can increase the risk for relatively common, complex neurodegenerative diseases, but since no clear significance threshold for rare genetic variation has been established, some caution is warranted until the findings are further replicated.
A rare variant in the Triggering Receptor Expressed on Myeloid cells 2 (TREM2) gene has been reported to be a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease by two independent groups (Odds ratio between 2.9-4.5). Given the key role of TREM2 in the effective phagocytosis of apoptotic neuronal cells by microglia, we hypothesized that dysfunction of TREM2 may play a more generalized role in neurodegeneration. With this in mind we set out to assess the genetic association of the Alzheimer’s disease-related risk variant in TREM2 (rs75932628, p.R47H) with other related neurodegenerative disorders.
The study included 609 patients with frontotemporal dementia, 765 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, 1493 with Parkinson’s disease, 772 with progressive supranuclear palsy, 448 with ischemic stroke and 1957 controls subjects free of neurodegenerative disease. A significant association was observed for the TREM2 p.R47H substitution in susceptibility to frontotemporal dementia (OR = 5.06; p-value = 0.001) and Parkinson’s disease (OR = 2.67; p-value = 0.026), while no evidence of association with risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, progressive supranuclear palsy or ischemic stroke was observed.
Our results suggest that the TREM2 p.R47H substitution is a risk factor for frontotemporal dementia and Parkinson’s disease in addition to Alzheimer’s disease. These findings suggest a more general role for TREM2 dysfunction in neurodegeneration, which could be related to its role in the immune response.
TREM2; Frontotemporal dementia; Parkinson disease; Genetic association
Expanded glutamine repeats of the ataxin-2 (ATXN2) protein cause spinocerebellar ataxia type 2 (SCA2), a rare neurodegenerative disorder. More recent studies have suggested that expanded ATXN2 repeats are a genetic risk factor for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) via an RNA-dependent interaction with TDP-43. Given the phenotypic diversity observed in SCA2 patients, we set out to determine the polymorphic nature of the ATXN2 repeat length across a spectrum of neurodegenerative disorders. In this study, we genotyped the ATXN2 repeat in 3919 neurodegenerative disease patients and 4877 healthy controls and performed logistic regression analysis to determine the association of repeat length with the risk of disease. We confirmed the presence of a significantly higher number of expanded ATXN2 repeat carriers in ALS patients compared with healthy controls (OR = 5.57; P= 0.001; repeat length >30 units). Furthermore, we observed significant association of expanded ATXN2 repeats with the development of progressive supranuclear palsy (OR = 5.83; P= 0.004; repeat length >30 units). Although expanded repeat carriers were also identified in frontotemporal lobar degeneration, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease patients, these were not significantly more frequent than in controls. Of note, our study identified a number of healthy control individuals who harbor expanded repeat alleles (31–33 units), which suggests caution should be taken when attributing specific disease phenotypes to these repeat lengths. In conclusion, our findings confirm the role of ATXN2 as an important risk factor for ALS and support the hypothesis that expanded ATXN2 repeats may predispose to other neurodegenerative diseases, including progressive supranuclear palsy.
Using cluster analysis Libon et al. (2010) found three verbal serial list-learning profiles involving delay memory test performance in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Amnesic MCI (aMCI) patients presented with low scores on delay free recall and recognition tests; mixed MCI (mxMCI) patients scored higher on recognition compared to delay free recall tests; and dysexecutive MCI (dMCI) patients generated relatively intact scores on both delay test conditions. The aim of the current research was to further characterize memory impairment in MCI by examining forgetting/savings, interference from a competing word list, intrusion errors/perseverations, intrusion word frequency, and recognition foils in these three statistically determined MCI groups compared to normal control (NC) participants. The aMCI patients exhibited little savings, generated more highly prototypic intrusion errors, and displayed indiscriminate responding to delayed recognition foils. The mxMCI patients exhibited higher saving scores, fewer and less prototypic intrusion errors, and selectively endorsed recognition foils from the interference list. dMCI patients also selectively endorsed recognition foils from the interference list but performed similarly compared to NC participants. These data suggest the existence of distinct memory impairments in MCI and caution against the routine use of a single memory test score to operationally define MCI.
Mild cognitive impairment; MCI; Declarative memory; Executive control; Philadelphia (repeatable) Verbal Learning Test; P(r)VLT; Cluster analysis; Boston Process Approach
Libon et al. (2010) provided evidence for three statistically determined clusters of patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI): amnesic (aMCI), dysexecutive (dMCI), and mixed (mxMCI). The current study further examined dysexecutive impairment in MCI using the framework of Fuster's (1997) derailed temporal gradients, that is, declining performance on executive tests over time or test epoch. Temporal gradients were operationally defined by calculating the slope of aggregate letter fluency output across 15-s epochs and accuracy indices for initial, middle, and latter triads from the Wechsler Memory Scale-Mental Control subtest (Boston Revision). For letter fluency, slope was steeper for dMCI compared to aMCI and NC groups. Between-group Mental Control analyses for triad 1 revealed worse dMCI performance than NC participants. On triad 2, dMCI scored lower than aMCI and NCs; on triad 3, mxMCI performed worse versus NCs. Within-group Mental Control analyses yielded equal performance across all triads for aMCI and NC participants. mxMCI scored lower on triad 1 compared to triads 2 and 3. dMCI participants also performed worse on triad 1 compared to triads 2 and 3, but scored higher on triad 3 versus triad 2. These data suggest impaired temporal gradients may provide a useful heuristic for understanding dysexecutive impairment in MCI.
Mild cognitive impairment; Single domain mild cognitive impairment; Multiple domain mild cognitive impairment; Alzheimer's disease; The Titanic Effect; Executive control
The amyloid cascade hypothesis suggests that the aggregation and deposition of amyloid-β protein is an initiating event in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Using amyloid imaging technology, such as the positron emission tomography (PET) agent Pittsburgh compound-B (PiB), it is possible to explore the natural history of preclinical amyloid deposition in people at high risk for AD. With this goal in mind, asymptomatic (n = 5) and symptomatic (n = 5) carriers of presenilin-1 (PS1) mutations (C410Y or A426P) that lead to early-onset AD and noncarrier controls from both kindreds (n = 2) were studied with PiB–PET imaging and compared with sporadic AD subjects (n = 12) and controls from the general population (n = 18). We found intense and focal PiB retention in the striatum of all 10 PS1 mutation carriers studied (ages 35–49 years). In most PS1 mutation carriers, there also were increases in PiB retention compared with controls in cortical brain areas, but these increases were not as great as those observed in sporadic AD subjects. The two PS1 mutation carriers with a clinical diagnosis of early-onset AD did not show the typical regional pattern of PiB retention observed in sporadic AD. Postmortem evaluation of tissue from two parents of PS1C410Y subjects in this study confirmed extensive striatal amyloid deposition, along with typical cortical deposition. The early, focal striatal amyloid deposition observed in these PS1 mutation carriers is often is not associated with clinical symptoms.
Alzheimer's disease; positron emission tomography; amyloid-β; diagnosis; Pittsburgh Compound-B; striatum
Lewy body dementia (LBD) is a common cause of dementia but to date, little is known about caregiver burden. The Lewy Body Dementia Association (www.LBDA.org) conducted a web-based survey of 962 caregivers (mean age 56y; 88% women). The most common initial symptoms were cognitive (48%), motor (39%), or both (13%). Caregivers expressed concerns about fear of future (77%), feeling stressed (54%), loss of social life (52%) and uncertainty about what to do next (50%). Caregivers reported moderate to severe burden; 80% felt the people around them did not understand their burden and 54% reported feelings of isolation with spousal caregivers reporting more burden than non-spousal caregivers. Only 29% hired in-home assistance while less than 40% used respite or adult day care, geriatric case managers or attended a support group meeting. Lack of service utilization occurred despite two-thirds of caregivers reporting medical crises requiring emergency services, psychiatric care or law enforcement. Caregivers reported preferences for web-based information, directories of LBD expert providers, information on LBD research and location of local support groups. These findings highlight significant unmet needs for LBD caregivers and provide targets for intervention to reduce caregiver burden. Community resources such as the Lewy Body Dementia Association may serve this end, while also providing practical information and support for caregivers.
Lewy body dementia; caregiver burden; stress
The most common causes of neurodegenerative dementia include Alzheimer’s disease (AD), dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). We believe that, in all 3, aggregates of pathogenic proteins are pathological substrates which are associated with a loss of synaptic function/plasticity. The synaptic plasticity relies on the normal integration of glutamate receptors at the postsynaptic density (PSD). The PSD organizes synaptic proteins to mediate the functional and structural plasticity of the excitatory synapse and to maintain synaptic homeostasis. Here, we will discuss the relevant disruption of the protein network at the PSD in these dementias and the accumulation of the pathological changes at the PSD years before clinical symptoms. We suggest that the functional and structural plasticity changes of the PSD may contribute to the loss of molecular homeostasis within the synapse (and contribute to early symptoms) in these dementias.
Alzheimer’s disease; dementia with Lewy bodies; frontotemporal dementia; postsynaptic density
Lewy body dementia (LBD) is the second most common cause of dementia, however, little is known about how the clinical diagnosis of LBD is obtained in the community or the caregiver experience while seeking the diagnosis.
The Lewy Body Dementia Association (www.LBDA.org) conducted a web-based survey of 962 caregivers over a 6-month period.
The mean age of respondents was 55.9y; 88% were female and 64% had daily contact with patients. The mean age of LBD patients was 75.4y; 62% were male and 46% lived with a caregiver. The most common presentation of symptoms as reported by LBD caregivers was cognitive (48%), motor (39%) or both (13%). The first diagnoses given to the patients were Parkinson disease or other movement disorder (39%), Alzheimer disease or other cognitive disorder (36%), or mental illness (24%). Fifty percent of patients saw >3 doctors for more than 10 visits over the course of 1 year before an LBD diagnosis was established. Neurologists diagnosed most cases (62%), while primary care-providers diagnosed only 6% of cases. No differences were found between the presentation of disease and the number of physicians, number of office visits, length of time to establish diagnosis, or type of doctor who finally made an LBD diagnosis. Caregivers viewed physicians as knowledgeable about disease manifestations and treatment options, but not about disease course/prognosis and available community resources and referrals.
These data highlight a need for increasing physician awareness and knowledge of LBD, which will facilitate accurate diagnosis and treatment. Community resources such as the Lewy Body Dementia Association may serve this end, while also providing practical information and support for caregivers.
Lewy body dementia; caregiver experiences; diagnosis
To assess the transactive response DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43) burden in familial forms of Alzheimer disease (FAD) and Down syndrome (DS) to determine whether TDP-43 inclusions are also present.
Using standard immunohistochemical techniques, we examined brain tissue samples from 42 subjects with FAD and 14 with DS.
We found pathological TDP-43 aggregates in 14.0% of participants (6 of 42 and 2 of 14 participants with FAD and DS, respectively). In both FAD and DS, TDP-43 immunoreactivity did not colocalize with neurofibrillary tangles. Occasionally participants with FAD or DS had TDP-43–positive neuropil threads or dots. Overall, the amygdala was most commonly affected, followed by the hippocampus, with no TDP-43 pathology in neocortical regions. A similar distribution of TDP-43 inclusions is seen in sporadic Alzheimer disease, but it differs from that seen in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia.
Transactive response DNA-binding protein 43 pathology occurs in FAD and DS, similar to that observed in sporadic Alzheimer disease. Thus, pathological TDP-43 may contribute the cognitive impairments in familial and sporadic forms of Alzheimer disease.
Synaptic loss underlies the memory deficit of Alzheimer's disease (AD). The molecular mechanism is elusive; however, excitatory synapses organized by the postsynaptic density (PSD) have been used as targets for AD treatment. To identify pathological entities at the synapse in AD, synaptic proteins were screened by quantitative proteomic profiling. The critical proteins were then selected for immunoblot analysis. The glutamate receptors N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor 1 and α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptor 2 (GluR2) were substantially lost; specifically, the loss of GluR2 was up to 40% at PSD in AD. Shank proteins, the organizers of these glutamate receptors at excitatory synapses, were dramatically altered in AD. The level of Shank2 was increased, whereas the protein level of Shank3 was decreased. Further, the Shank3 protein was modified by ubiquitin, indicating that abnormal activity of the ubiquitin–proteasome system may lead to Shank3 degradation in AD. Our findings suggest that disruption of glutamate receptors at the Shank-postsynaptic platform could contribute to destruction of the PSD which underlies the synaptic dysfunction and loss in AD.
Alzheimer's; Glutamate receptor; Synapse; Postsynaptic density; Shank; Proteomic
LR11 is an ApoE receptor that is enriched in the brain. We have shown that LR11 is markedly downregulated in patients with sporadic Alzheimer disease (AD). This finding led us to explore whether reduced LR11 expression reflects a primary mechanism of disease or merely a secondary consequence of other AD-associated changes. Therefore, LR11 expression was assessed in a transgenic mouse model of AD and familial AD (FAD) brains. Immunohistochemistry and immunoblotting of LR11 in PS1/APP transgenic and wild-type mice indicated that LR11 levels are not affected by genotype or accumulation of amyloid pathology. LR11 expression was also evaluated based on immunoblotting and LR11 immunostaining intensity in human frontal cortex in controls, sporadic AD, and FAD, including cases with presenilin-1 (PS1) and presenilin-2 (PS2) mutations. Although LR11 was reduced in sporadic AD, there was no difference in protein level or staining intensity between control and FAD cases. The finding that LR11 expression is unaffected in both a mouse model of AD and autosomal-dominant forms of AD suggests that LR11 is not regulated by amyloid accumulation or other AD neuropathologic changes. We hypothesize that LR11 loss may be specific to sporadic AD and influence amyloid pathology through mechanisms independent of substrate–enzyme interactions regulated by FAD mutations.
Alzheimer disease; ApoE receptor; Familial Alzheimer disease; LR11; Mouse model of AD
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.
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.