Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a clinical syndrome with heterogeneous molecular basis. Until recently, our knowledge was limited to a minority of cases associated with abnormalities of the tau protein or gene (MAPT). However, in 2006, mutations in progranulin (GRN) were discovered as another important cause of familial FTD. That same year, TAR DNA binding protein 43 (TDP-43) was identified as the pathological protein in the most common subtypes of FTD and ALS. Since then, significant efforts have been made to understand the normal functions and regulation of GRN and TDP-43 and their roles in neurodegeneration. More recently, other DNA/RNA binding proteins (FUS, EWS and TAF15) were identified as pathological proteins in most of the remaining cases of FTD. And just six months ago, abnormal expansion of a hexanucleotide repeat in C9ORF72 was found to be the most common genetic cause of both FTD and ALS. With this remarkable progress, it appears that all the common FTD-causing genes have now been discovered and the major pathological proteins identified. This review highlights recent advances in the molecular aspects of FTD, which will provide the basis for improved patient care through the future development of more targeted diagnostic tests and therapies.
Frontotemporal dementia; ALS; genetics; Asian; C9ORF72
Frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis are closely related clinical syndromes with overlapping molecular pathogenesis. Several families have been reported with members affected by frontotemporal dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or both, which show genetic linkage to a region on chromosome 9p21. Recently, two studies identified the FTD/ALS gene defect on chromosome 9p as an expanded GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat in a non-coding region of the chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 gene (C9ORF72). In the present study, we provide detailed analysis of the clinical features and neuropathology for 16 unrelated families with frontotemporal dementia caused by the C9ORF72 mutation. All had an autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance. Eight families had a combination of frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis while the other eight had a pure frontotemporal dementia phenotype. Clinical information was available for 30 affected members of the 16 families. There was wide variation in age of onset (mean = 54.3, range = 34–74 years) and disease duration (mean = 5.3, range = 1–16 years). Early diagnoses included behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia (n = 15), progressive non-fluent aphasia (n = 5), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (n = 9) and progressive non-fluent aphasia–amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (n = 1). Heterogeneity in clinical presentation was also common within families. However, there was a tendency for the phenotypes to converge with disease progression; seven subjects had final clinical diagnoses of both frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and all of those with an initial progressive non-fluent aphasia diagnosis subsequently developed significant behavioural abnormalities. Twenty-one affected family members came to autopsy and all were found to have transactive response DNA binding protein with Mr 43 kD (TDP-43) pathology in a wide neuroanatomical distribution. All had involvement of the extramotor neocortex and hippocampus (frontotemporal lobar degeneration-TDP) and all but one case (clinically pure frontotemporal dementia) had involvement of lower motor neurons, characteristic of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. In addition, a consistent and relatively specific pathological finding was the presence of neuronal inclusions in the cerebellar cortex that were ubiquitin/p62-positive but TDP-43-negative. Our findings indicate that the C9ORF72 mutation is a major cause of familial frontotemporal dementia with TDP-43 pathology, that likely accounts for the majority of families with combined frontotemporal dementia/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis presentation, and further support the concept that frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis represent a clinicopathological spectrum of disease with overlapping molecular pathogenesis.
frontotemporal dementia; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; C9ORF72, TDP-43
Two studies recently identified a GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat expansion in a non-coding region of the chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 gene (C9ORF72) as the cause of chromosome 9p-linked amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). In a cohort of 231 probands with ALS, we identified the C9ORF72 mutation in 17 familial (27.4 %) and six sporadic (3.6%) cases. Patients with the mutation presented with typical motor features of ALS, although subjects with the C9ORF72 mutation had more frequent bulbar onset, compared to those without this mutation. Dementia was significantly more common in ALS patients and families with the C9ORF72 mutation and was usually early-onset FTD. There was striking clinical heterogeneity among the members of individual families with the mutation. The associated neuropathology was a combination of ALS with TDP-ir inclusions and FTLD-TDP. In addition to TDP-43-immunoreactive pathology, a consistent and specific feature of cases with the C9ORF72 mutation was the presence of ubiquitin-positive, TDP-43-negative inclusions in a variety of neuroanatomical regions, such as the cerebellar cortex. These findings support the C9ORF72 mutation as an important newly-recognized cause of ALS, provide a more detailed characterization of the associated clinical and pathological features and further demonstrate the clinical and molecular overlap between ALS and FTD.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; frontotemporal dementia; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; C9ORF72; TDP-43; chromosome 9p
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.
Mutations in the gene encoding the fused in sarcoma (FUS) protein are responsible for ~3% of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and <1% of sporadic ALS (ALS-FUS). Descriptions of the associated neuropathology are few and largely restricted to individual case reports. To better define the neuropathology associated with FUS mutations, we have undertaken a detailed comparative analysis of six cases of ALS-FUS that include sporadic and familial cases, with both juvenile and adult onset, and with four different FUS mutations. We found significant pathological heterogeneity among our cases, with two distinct patterns that correlated with the disease severity and the specific mutation. Frequent basophilic inclusions and round FUS-immunoreactive (FUS-ir) neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions (NCI) were a consistent feature of our early-onset cases, including two with the p.P525L mutation. In contrast, our late-onset cases, that included two with the p.R521C mutation, had tangle-like NCI and numerous FUS-ir glial cytoplasmic inclusions. Double-labeling experiments demonstrated that many of the glial inclusions were in oligodendrocytes. Comparison with the neuropathology of cases of frontotemporal lobar degeneration with FUS-ir pathology showed significant differences and suggests that FUS mutations are associated with a distinct pathobiology.
fused in sarcoma; FUS; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; ALS; basophilic inclusions
Baylisascaris procyonis; ascarid roundworm; parasites; Alzheimer disease; dementia; elderly person; Canada
Mutations in the fused in sarcoma (FUS) gene have recently been found to cause familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (FALS).
We screened FUS in a cohort of 200 ALS patients [32 FALS and 168 sporadic ALS (SALS)].
In one FALS proband, we identified a mutation (p.R521C) that was also present in her affected daughter. Their clinical phenotype was remarkably similar and atypical of classic ALS, with symmetric proximal pelvic and pectoral weakness. Distal weakness and upper motor neuron features only developed late. Neuropathological examination demonstrated FUS-immunoreactive neuronal and glial inclusions in the spinal cord and many extramotor regions, but no TDP-43 pathology. We also identified a novel mutation (p.G187S) in one SALS patient. Overall, FUS mutations accounted for 3% of our non-SOD1, non-TARDBP FALS cases and 0.6% of SALS.
This study demonstrates that the phenotype with FUS mutations extends beyond classical ALS. It suggests there are specific clinicogenetic correlations and provides the first detailed neuropathological description.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; fused in sarcoma; FUS; translocated in liposarcoma; TLS
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.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1750-1326-9-38) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
C9ORF72; Frontotemporal dementia; Motor neuron disease; Genetic modifier; Repeat expansion
Neuronal intermediate filament inclusion disease (NIFID) is an uncommon neurodegenerative condition that typically presents as early-onset, sporadic frontotemporal dementia (FTD), associated with a pyramidal and/or extrapyramidal movement disorder. The neuropathology is characterized by frontotemporal lobar degeneration with neuronal inclusions that are immunoreactive for all class IV intermediate filaments (IF), light, medium and heavy neurofilament subunits and α-internexin. However, not all the inclusions in NIFID are IF-positive and the primary molecular defect remains uncertain. Mutations in the gene encoding the fused in sarcoma (FUS) protein have recently been identified as a cause of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Because of the recognized clinical, genetic and pathological overlap between FTD and ALS, we investigated the possible role of FUS in NIFID. We found abnormal intracellular accumulation of FUS to be a consistent feature of our NIFID cases (n = 5). More neuronal inclusions were labeled using FUS immunohistochemistry than for IF. Several types of inclusions were consistently FUS-positive but IF-negative, including neuronal intranuclear inclusions and glial cytoplasmic inclusions. Double-label immunofluorescence confirmed that many cells had only FUS-positive inclusions and that all cells with IF-positive inclusions also contained pathological FUS. No mutations in the FUS gene were identified in a single case with DNA available. These findings suggest that FUS may play an important role in the pathogenesis of NIFID.
frontotemporal dementia; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; neuronal intermediate filament disease; fused in liposarcoma; translocated in sarcoma
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.
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.
TMEM106B; frontotemporal dementia; progranulin; glycosylation
Previous data suggest heterogeneity in laminar distribution of the pathology in the molecular disorder frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) with transactive response (TAR) DNA-binding protein of 43kDa (TDP-43) proteinopathy (FTLD-TDP). To study this heterogeneity, we quantified the changes in density across the cortical laminae of neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions (NCI), glial inclusions (GI), neuronal intranuclear inclusions (NII), dystrophic neurites (DN), surviving neurons, abnormally enlarged neurons (EN), and vacuoles in regions of the frontal and temporal lobe.
Changes in density of histological features across cortical gyri were studied in ten sporadic cases of FTLD-TDP using quantitative methods and polynomial curve-fitting.
Our data suggest that laminar neuropathology in sporadic FTLD-TDP is highly variable. Most commonly, NCI, DN, and vacuolation were abundant in the upper laminae and GI, NII, EN, and glial cell nuclei in the lower laminae. TDP-43-immunoreactive inclusions affected more of the cortical profile in longer duration cases, their distribution varied with disease subtype, but was unrelated to Braak tangle score. Different TDP-43-immunoreactive inclusions were not spatially correlated.
Laminar distribution of pathological features in ten sporadic cases of FTLD-TDL is heterogeneous and may be accounted for, in part, by disease subtype and disease duration. In addition, the feed-forward and feed-back cortico-cortical connections may be compromised in FTLD-TDP.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43 proteinopathy (FTLD-TDP); FTLD with ubiquitin-positive inclusions (FTLD-U); Transactive response TAR DNA-binding protein of 43 kDa (TDP-43); Neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions (NCI); Laminar distribution
Frontotemporal Degeneration (FTD) is a common cause of dementia for which there are currently no approved therapies. Over the past decade there has been an explosion of knowledge about the biology and clinical features of FTD that has identified a number of promising therapeutic targets as well as animal models in which to develop drugs. The close association of some forms of FTD with neuropathological accumulation of tau protein or increased neuroinflammation due to progranulin protein deficiency suggests that a drug’s success in treating FTD may predict efficacy in more common diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD). A variety of regulatory incentives, clinical features of FTD, such as rapid disease progression, and relatively pure molecular pathology, suggest that there are advantages to developing drugs for FTD as compared to other more common neurodegenerative diseases such as AD. In March 2011, the Frontotemporal Dementia Treatment Study Group (FTSG) sponsored a conference entitled,“ FTD, the Next Therapeutic Frontier,” focused on pre-clinical aspects of FTD drug development. The goal of the meeting was to promote collaborations between academic researchers and biotechnology and pharmaceutical researchers to accelerate the development of new treatments for FTD. Here we report the key findings from the conference, including the rationale for FTD drug development, epidemiological, genetic and neuropathological features of FTD, FTD animal models and how best to use them and examples of successful drug-development collaborations in other neurodegenerative diseases.
The term frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) refers to a group of progressive brain diseases, which preferentially involve the frontal and temporal lobes. Depending on the primary site of atrophy, the clinical manifestation is dominated by behavior alterations or impairment of language. The onset of symptoms usually occurs before the age of 60 years, and the mean survival from diagnosis varies between 3 and 10 years. The prevalence is estimated at 15 per 100,000 in the population aged between 45 and 65 years, which is similar to the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in this age group. There are two major clinical subtypes, behavioral-variant frontotemporal dementia and primary progressive aphasia. The neuropathology underlying the clinical syndromes is also heterogeneous. A common feature is the accumulation of certain neuronal proteins. Of these, the microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT), the transactive response DNA-binding protein, and the fused in sarcoma protein are most important. Approximately 10% to 30% of FTLD shows an autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance, with mutations in the genes for MAPT, progranulin (GRN), and in the chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9orf72) accounting for more than 80% of familial cases. Although significant advances have been made in recent years regarding diagnostic criteria, clinical assessment instruments, neuropsychological tests, cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers, and brain imaging techniques, the clinical diagnosis remains a challenge. To date, there is no specific pharmacological treatment for FTLD. Some evidence has been provided for serotonin reuptake inhibitors to reduce behavioral disturbances. No large-scale or high-quality studies have been conducted to determine the efficacy of non-pharmacological treatment approaches in FTLD. In view of the limited treatment options, caregiver education and support is currently the most important component of the clinical management.
review; frontotemporal dementia; frontotemporal lobar degeneration
Inflammation clearly occurs in pathologically vulnerable regions of the Alzheimer’s disease (AD) brain, and it does so with the full complexity of local peripheral inflammatory responses. In the periphery, degenerating tissue and the deposition of highly insoluble abnormal materials are classical stimulants of inflammation. Likewise, in the AD brain damaged neurons and neurites and highly insoluble amyloid β peptide deposits and neurofibrillary tangles provide obvious stimuli for inflammation. Because these stimuli are discrete, microlocalized, and present from early preclinical to terminal stages of AD, local upregulation of complement, cytokines, acute phase reactants, and other inflammatory mediators is also discrete, microlocalized, and chronic. Cumulated over many years, direct and bystander damage from AD inflammatory mechanisms is likely to significantly exacerbate the very pathogenic processes that gave rise to it. Thus, animal models and clinical studies, although still in their infancy, strongly suggest that AD inflammation significantly contributes to AD pathogenesis. By better understanding AD inflammatory and immunoregulatory processes, it should be possible to develop anti-inflammatory approaches that may not cure AD but will likely help slow the progression or delay the onset of this devastating disorder.
Alzheimer’s disease; Inflammation; Nervous system; Neuroinflammation; Complement; Cytokine; Chemokine; Acute phase protein; Microglia; Astrocyte; Neuron
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
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.
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
Clinicopathologic correlation studies are critically important for the field of Alzheimer disease (AD) research. Studies on human subjects with autopsy confirmation entail numerous potential biases that affect both their general applicability and the validity of the correlations. Many sources of data variability can weaken the apparent correlation between cognitive status and AD neuropathologic changes. Indeed, most persons in advanced old age have significant non-AD brain lesions that may alter cognition independently of AD. Worldwide research efforts have evaluated thousands of human subjects to assess the causes of cognitive impairment in the elderly, and these studies have been interpreted in different ways. We review the literature focusing on the correlation of AD neuropathologic changes (i.e. β-amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles) with cognitive impairment. We discuss the various patterns of brain changes that have been observed in elderly individuals to provide a perspective for understanding AD clinicopathologic correlation and conclude that evidence from many independent research centers strongly supports the existence of a specific disease, as defined by the presence of Aβ plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. Although Aβ plaques may play a key role in AD pathogenesis, the severity of cognitive impairment correlates best with the burden of neocortical neurofibrillary tangles.
Aging; Alzheimer disease; Amyloid; Dementia; Epidemiology; Neuropathology; MAPT; Neurofibrillary tangles
We and others have recently reported an association between ALS and single nucleotide polymorphisms on chromosome 9p21 in several populations. Here we show that the associated haplotype is the same in all populations and that several families previously shown to have genetic linkage to this region also share this haplotype. The most parsimonious explanation of these data is that there is a single founder for this form of disease.
Genetics; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; frontotemporal dementia; Finland
Abnormal neuronal aggregates of α-internexin and the three neurofilament (NF) subunits, NF-L, NF-M, and NF-H have recently been identified as the pathological hallmarks of neuronal intermediate filament (IF) inclusion disease (NIFID), a novel neurological disease of early onset with a variable clinical phenotype including frontotemporal dementia, pyramidal and extrapyramidal signs. α-Internexin, a class IV IF protein, a major component of inclusions in NIFID, has not previously been identified as a component of the pathological protein aggregates of any other neurodegenerative disease. Therefore, to determine the specificity of this protein, α-internexin immunohistochemistry was undertaken on cases of NIFID, non-tau frontotemporal dementias, motor neuron disease, α-synucleinopathies, tauopathies, and normal aged control brains. Our results indicate that class IV IF proteins are present within the pleomorphic inclusions of all cases of NIFID. Small subsets of abnormal neuronal inclusions in Alzheimer's disease, Lewy body diseases, and motor neuron disease also contain epitopes of α-internexin. Thus, α-internexin is a major component of the neuronal inclusions in NIFID and a relatively minor component of inclusions in other neurodegenerative diseases. The discovery of α-internexin in neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions implicates novel mechanisms of pathogenesis in NIFID and other neurological diseases with pathological filamentous neuronal inclusions.
α-Internexin; Neurofilament; Intermediate filament; Neuronal intermediate filament inclusion disease; Frontotemporal dementia
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is clinically, pathologically and genetically heterogeneous. Three major proteins are implicated in its pathogenesis. About half of cases are characterized by depositions of the microtubule associated protein, tau (FTLD-tau). In most of the remaining cases, deposits of the transactive response (TAR) DNA-binding protein with Mw of 43 kDa, known as TDP-43 (FTLD-TDP), are seen. Lastly, about 5–10 % of cases are characterized by abnormal accumulations of a third protein, fused in sarcoma (FTLD-FUS). Depending on the protein concerned, the signature accumulations can take the form of inclusion bodies (neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions and neuronal intranuclear inclusions) or dystrophic neurites, in the cerebral cortex, hippocampus and subcortex. In some instances, glial cells are also affected by inclusion body formation. In motor neurone disease (MND), TDP-43 or FUS inclusions can present within motor neurons of the brain stem and spinal cord. This present paper attempts to critically examine the role of such proteins in the pathogenesis of FTLD and MND as to whether they might exert a direct pathogenetic effect (gain of function), or simply act as relatively innocent witnesses to a more fundamental loss of function effect. We conclude that although there is strong evidence for both gain and loss of function effects in respect of each of the proteins concerned, in reality, it is likely that each is a single face of either side of the coin, and that both will play separate, though complementary, roles in driving the damage which ultimately leads to the downfall of neurons and clinical expression of disease.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Motor neurone disease; Microtubule associated protein; Tau; TDP-43; FUS; Gain of function; Loss of function
Accumulation of the DNA/RNA binding protein fused in sarcoma as cytoplasmic inclusions in neurons and glial cells is the pathological hallmark of all patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with mutations in FUS as well as in several subtypes of frontotemporal lobar degeneration, which are not associated with FUS mutations. The mechanisms leading to inclusion formation and fused in sarcoma-associated neurodegeneration are only poorly understood. Because fused in sarcoma belongs to a family of proteins known as FET, which also includes Ewing’s sarcoma and TATA-binding protein-associated factor 15, we investigated the potential involvement of these other FET protein family members in the pathogenesis of fused in sarcoma proteinopathies. Immunohistochemical analysis of FET proteins revealed a striking difference among the various conditions, with pathology in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with FUS mutations being labelled exclusively for fused in sarcoma, whereas fused in sarcoma-positive inclusions in subtypes of frontotemporal lobar degeneration also consistently immunostained for TATA-binding protein-associated factor 15 and variably for Ewing’s sarcoma. Immunoblot analysis of proteins extracted from post-mortem tissue of frontotemporal lobar degeneration with fused in sarcoma pathology demonstrated a relative shift of all FET proteins towards insoluble protein fractions, while genetic analysis of the TATA-binding protein-associated factor 15 and Ewing’s sarcoma gene did not identify any pathogenic variants. Cell culture experiments replicated the findings of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with FUS mutations by confirming the absence of TATA-binding protein-associated factor 15 and Ewing’s sarcoma alterations upon expression of mutant fused in sarcoma. In contrast, all endogenous FET proteins were recruited into cytoplasmic stress granules upon general inhibition of Transportin-mediated nuclear import, mimicking the findings in frontotemporal lobar degeneration with fused in sarcoma pathology. These results allow a separation of fused in sarcoma proteinopathies caused by FUS mutations from those without a known genetic cause based on neuropathological features. More importantly, our data imply different pathological processes underlying inclusion formation and cell death between both conditions; the pathogenesis in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with FUS mutations appears to be more restricted to dysfunction of fused in sarcoma, while a more global and complex dysregulation of all FET proteins is involved in the subtypes of frontotemporal lobar degeneration with fused in sarcoma pathology.
FUS; TAF15; EWS; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; frontotemporal dementia
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.