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.
Primary progressive aphasia (PPA) is a clinical syndrome diagnosed when three core criteria are met. First, there should be a language impairment (i.e., aphasia) that interferes with the usage or comprehension of words. Second, the neurological work-up should determine that the disease is neurodegenerative, and therefore progressive. Third, the aphasia should arise in relative isolation, without equivalent deficits of comportment or episodic memory. The language impairment can be fluent or non-fluent and may or may not interfere with word comprehension. Memory for recent events is preserved although memory scores obtained in verbally mediated tests may be abnormal. Minor changes in personality and behavior may be present but are not the leading factors that bring the patient to medical attention or that limit daily living activities. This distinctive clinical pattern is most conspicuous in the initial stages of the disease, and reflects a relatively selective atrophy of the language network, usually located in the left hemisphere. There are different clinical variants of PPA, each with a characteristic pattern of atrophy. The underlying neuropathological diseases are heterogeneous and can include Alzheimer’s disease as well as frontotemporal lobar degeneration. The clinician’s task is to recognize PPA and differentiate it from other neurodegenerative phenotypes, use biomarkers to surmise the nature of the underlying neuropathology, and institute the most fitting multimodal interventions.
dementia; language; network; frontotemporal; progranulin; tau
Frontotemporal Degeneration (FTD) encompasses a spectrum of related neurodegenerative disorders with behavioral, language and motor phenotypes for which there are currently no effective therapies. This manuscript is the second of two articles that summarize the presentations and discussions that occurred at two symposia in 2011 sponsored by the Frontotemporal Dementia Treatment Study Group (FTSG), a collaborative group of academic and industry researchers that is devoted to developing treatments for FTD. This manuscript discusses the current status of FTD clinical research that is relevant to the conduct of clinical trials and why FTD research may be an attractive pathway for developing therapies for neurodegenerative disorders. The clinical and molecular features of FTD, including rapid disease progression and relatively pure molecular pathology, suggest that there are advantages to developing drugs for FTD as compared to other dementias. FTD qualifies as orphan indication, providing additional advantages for drug development. Two recent sets of consensus diagnostic criteria will facilitate the identification of patients with FTD, and a variety of neuropsychological, functional and behavioral scales have been shown to be sensitive to disease progression. Moreover, quantitative neuroimaging measurements demonstrate progressive brain atrophy in FTD at rates that may surpass Alzheimer's disease (AD). Finally, the similarities between FTD and other neurodegenerative diseases with drug development efforts already underway suggest that FTD researchers will be able to draw upon this experience to create a roadmap for FTD drug development. We conclude that FTD research has reached sufficient maturity to pursue clinical development of specific FTD therapies.
FTLD-TDP; FTLD-FUS; ALS; TDP-43; amyloid; prion; thioflavin
Human cognitive brain mapping is at a crossroads. On the one hand, it can access a rich data set of synaptic connectivity in the cerebral cortex of the monkey, an animal that lacks many of the complicated behaviors of interest. On the other hand, it is rapidly amassing an even richer data set on the functional map of the human cerebral cortex, but with relatively little hard data on underlying structural connectivity. This second point tends to be blurred in the current literature because of the multiple ways in which the term ‘connection’ is used in the context of the human brain. In some instances the term is used at a conceptual level, to designate a pathway that should be there if the behavior is to be performed. In other instances, it refers to the computational demonstration of a functional relationship, the structural basis of which is not necessarily known. A third usage is based on connections that are known to exist in the monkey and that are inferred to also exist in the human. The fourth and most direct usage involves connections structurally proven to exist in the human. These four usages have been invoked interchangeably to propose connectivistic mechanisms of human cognitive function. To enlarge the currently limited data set on structural connectivity is of considerable importance for conducting biologically more valid explorations of large-scale neurocognitive networks. This challenging goal will require histological laboratory investigations of the human brain to resume their former prominence and to play an increasingly more substantial role in brain mapping research.
Network; Connectivity; Human Brain; Heteromodal; Transmodal; Paralimbic
Mutations in the Fused in sarcoma/Translated in liposarcoma gene (FUS/TLS, FUS) have been identified among patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). FUS protein aggregation is a major pathological hallmark of FUS proteinopathy, a group of neurodegenerative diseases characterized by FUS-immunoreactive inclusion bodies. We prepared transgenic Drosophila expressing either the wild type (Wt) or ALS-mutant human FUS protein (hFUS) using the UAS-Gal4 system. When expressing Wt, R524S or P525L mutant FUS in photoreceptors, mushroom bodies (MBs) or motor neurons (MNs), transgenic flies show age-dependent progressive neural damages, including axonal loss in MB neurons, morphological changes and functional impairment in MNs. The transgenic flies expressing the hFUS gene recapitulate key features of FUS proteinopathy, representing the first stable animal model for this group of devastating diseases.
frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD); FUS proteinopathy; animal model; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; neurodegeneration
Based on the recent literature and collective experience, an international consortium developed revised guidelines for the diagnosis of behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia. The validation process retrospectively reviewed clinical records and compared the sensitivity of proposed and earlier criteria in a multi-site sample of patients with pathologically verified frontotemporal lobar degeneration. According to the revised criteria, ‘possible’ behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia requires three of six clinically discriminating features (disinhibition, apathy/inertia, loss of sympathy/empathy, perseverative/compulsive behaviours, hyperorality and dysexecutive neuropsychological profile). ‘Probable’ behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia adds functional disability and characteristic neuroimaging, while behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia ‘with definite frontotemporal lobar degeneration’ requires histopathological confirmation or a pathogenic mutation. Sixteen brain banks contributed cases meeting histopathological criteria for frontotemporal lobar degeneration and a clinical diagnosis of behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies or vascular dementia at presentation. Cases with predominant primary progressive aphasia or extra-pyramidal syndromes were excluded. In these autopsy-confirmed cases, an experienced neurologist or psychiatrist ascertained clinical features necessary for making a diagnosis according to previous and proposed criteria at presentation. Of 137 cases where features were available for both proposed and previously established criteria, 118 (86%) met ‘possible’ criteria, and 104 (76%) met criteria for ‘probable’ behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia. In contrast, 72 cases (53%) met previously established criteria for the syndrome (P < 0.001 for comparison with ‘possible’ and ‘probable’ criteria). Patients who failed to meet revised criteria were significantly older and most had atypical presentations with marked memory impairment. In conclusion, the revised criteria for behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia improve diagnostic accuracy compared with previously established criteria in a sample with known frontotemporal lobar degeneration. Greater sensitivity of the proposed criteria may reflect the optimized diagnostic features, less restrictive exclusion features and a flexible structure that accommodates different initial clinical presentations. Future studies will be needed to establish the reliability and specificity of these revised diagnostic guidelines.
behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia; diagnostic criteria; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; FTD; pathology
Mutations in TARDBP, encoding TAR DNA-binding protein-43 (TDP-43), are associated with TDP-43 proteinopathies, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). We compared wild-type TDP-43 and an ALS-associated mutant TDP-43 in vitro and in vivo. The A315T mutant enhances neurotoxicity and the formation of aberrant TDP-43 species, including protease-resistant fragments. The C terminus of TDP-43 shows sequence similarity to prion proteins. Synthetic peptides flanking residue 315 form amyloid fibrils in vitro and cause neuronal death in primary cultures. These data provide evidence for biochemical similarities between TDP-43 and prion proteins, raising the possibility that TDP-43 derivatives may cause spreading of the disease phenotype among neighboring neurons. Our work also suggests that decreasing the abundance of neurotoxic TDP-43 species, enhancing degradation or clearance of such TDP-43 derivatives and blocking the spread of the disease phenotype may have therapeutic potential for TDP-43 proteinopathies.
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.
To provide a quantitative algorithm for classifying primary progressive aphasia (PPA) into agrammatic (PPA-G), semantic (PPA-S) and logopenic (PPA-L) variants, each of which is known to have a different probability of association with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) versus frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD).
Prospectively and consecutively enrolled 16 PPA patients tested with neuropsychological instruments and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
University medical center.
PPA patients recruited nationally in the USA as part of a longitudinal study.
A two-dimensional template, reflecting performance on tests of syntax (Northwestern Anagram Test) and lexical semantics (Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test), classified all 16 patients in concordance with a clinical diagnosis that had been made prior to the administration of the quantitative tests. All three subtypes had distinctly asymmetrical atrophy of the left perisylvian language network. Each subtype also had distinctive peak atrophy sites. Only PPA-G had peak atrophy in the IFG (Broca’s area), only PPA-S had peak atrophy in the anterior temporal lobe, and only PPA-L had peak atrophy in area 37.
Once an accurate root diagnosis of PPA is made, subtyping can be quantitatively guided using a two-dimensional template based on orthogonal tasks of grammatical competence and word comprehension. Although the choice of tasks and precise cut-off levels may evolve in time, this set of 16 patients demonstrates the feasibility of using a simple algorithm for clinico-anatomical classification in PPA. Prospective studies will show whether this suptyping can improve the clinical prediction of underlying neuropathology.
Pathogenic mutations in the gene encoding TDP-43, TARDBP, have been reported in familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (FALS) and, more recently, in families with a heterogeneous clinical phenotype including both ALS and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). In our previous study, sequencing analyses identified one variant in the 3′-untranslated region (3′-UTR) of the TARDBP gene in two affected members of one family with bvFTD and ALS and in one unrelated clinically assessed case of FALS. Since that study, brain tissue has become available and provides autopsy confirmation of FTLD-TDP in the proband and ALS in the brother of the bvFTD-ALS family and the neuropathology of those two cases is reported here. The 3′-UTR variant was not found in 982 control subjects (1,964 alleles). To determine the functional significance of this variant, we undertook quantitative gene expression analysis. Allele-specific amplification showed a significant increase of 22% (P < 0.05) in disease-specific allele expression with a twofold increase in total TARDBP mRNA. The segregation of this variant in a family with clinical bvFTD and ALS adds to the spectrum of clinical phenotypes previously associated with TARDBP variants. In summary, TARDBP variants may result in clinically and neuropathologically heterogeneous phenotypes linked by a common molecular pathology called TDP-43 proteinopathy.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Frontotemporal dementia; Motor neuron disease; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; TDP-43; TARDBP; 3′-Untranslated region
The semantic variant of primary progressive aphasia (PPA) is characterized by the combination of word comprehension deficits, fluent aphasia and a particularly severe anomia. In this study, two novel tasks were used to explore the factors contributing to the anomia. The single most common factor was a blurring of distinctions among members of a semantic category, leading to errors of overgeneralization in word–object matching tasks as well as in word definitions and object descriptions. This factor was more pronounced for natural kinds than artifacts. In patients with the more severe anomias, conceptual maps were more extensively disrupted so that inter-category distinctions were as impaired as intra-category distinctions. Many objects that could not be named aloud could be matched to the correct word in patients with mild but not severe anomia, reflecting a gradual intensification of the semantic factor as the naming disorder becomes more severe. Accurate object descriptions were more frequent than accurate word definitions and all patients experienced prominent word comprehension deficits that interfered with everyday activities but no consequential impairment of object usage or face recognition. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed three characteristics: greater atrophy of the left hemisphere; atrophy of anterior components of the perisylvian language network in the superior and middle temporal gyri; and atrophy of anterior components of the face and object recognition network in the inferior and medial temporal lobes. The left sided asymmetry and perisylvian extension of the atrophy explains the more profound impairment of word than object usage and provides the anatomical basis for distinguishing the semantic variant of primary progressive aphasia from the partially overlapping group of patients that fulfil the widely accepted diagnostic criteria for semantic dementia.
aphasia; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; language processing; progressive aphasia; semantic categorization
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is the second most common cause of presenile dementia. The predominant neuropathology is FTLD with TAR DNA binding protein (TDP-43) inclusions (FTLD-TDP)1. FTLD-TDP is frequently familial resulting from progranulin (GRN) mutations. We assembled an international collaboration to identify susceptibility loci for FTLD-TDP, using genome-wide association (GWA). We found that FTLD-TDP associates with multiple SNPs mapping to a single linkage disequilibrium (LD) block on 7p21 that contains TMEM106B in a GWA study (GWAS) on 515 FTLD-TDP cases. Three SNPs retained genome-wide significance following Bonferroni correction; top SNP rs1990622 (P=1.08×10−11; odds ratio (OR) minor allele (C) 0.61, 95% CI 0.53-0.71). The association replicated in 89 FTLD-TDP cases (rs1990622; P=2×10−4). TMEM106B variants may confer risk by increasing TMEM106B expression. TMEM106B variants also contribute to genetic risk for FTLD-TDP in patients with GRN mutations. Our data implicate TMEM106B as a strong risk factor for FTLD-TDP suggesting an underlying pathogenic mechanism.
The clinical syndrome of primary progressive aphasia (PPA) can be associated with a variety of neuropathologic diagnoses at autopsy. Thirty percent of cases have Alzheimer disease (AD) pathology, most often in the usual distribution, which defies principles of brain–behavior organization, in that aphasia is not symptomatic of limbic disease. The present study investigated whether concomitant TDP-43 pathology could resolve the lack of clinicoanatomic concordance. In this paper, 16 cases of clinical PPA and 10 cases of primarily non-aphasic frontotemporal dementia (FTD), all with AD pathology, were investigated to determine whether their atypical clinical phenotypes reflected the presence of additional TDP-43 pathology. A comparison group consisted of 27 cases of pathologic AD with the typical amnestic clinical phenotype of probable AD. Concomitant TDP-43 pathology was discovered in only three of the FTD and PPA but in more than half of the typical amnestic clinical phenotypes. Hippocampal sclerosis (HS) was closely associated with TDP-43 pathology when all groups were combined for analysis. Therefore, the clinical phenotypes of PPA and FTD in cases with pathologic AD are only rarely associated with TDP-43 proteinopathy. Furthermore, medial temporal TDP-43 pathology is more tightly linked to HS than to clinical phenotype. These findings challenge the current notions about clinicopathologic correlation, especially about the role of multiple pathologies.
Primary progressive aphasia; Frontotemporal dementia; Alzheimer disease; FTLD-TDP; TDP-43 proteinopathy; Hippocampal sclerosis
Although risk factors for Alzheimer disease have been well studied, much less is known about risk factors for primary progressive aphasia (PPA).
To demonstrate that learning disabilities (LDs) are more common in patients with PPA and their first-degree family members.
Design, Setting, and Patients
Self-report endorsement of an individual and family history of an LD in a sample of 699 subjects from the Northwestern Alzheimer’s Disease Center registry. We compared 3 dementia groups (PPA, typical amnestic Alzheimer disease, and the behavioral variant of frontotemporal dementia) and 1 elderly control group. A retrospective medical record review in the PPA probands was used to obtain additional information.
Main Outcome Measure
Prevalence of LDs among probands and their first-degree relatives.
The patients with PPA and their first-degree family members had a significantly higher frequency of LD compared with the other dementia groups and the controls. Some of the families of patients with PPA displayed unusual concentrations of LD, especially dyslexia.
These results suggest that LD may constitute a risk factor for PPA, providing additional clues concerning the determinants for the selective vulnerability of the language network in this syndrome.
To identify predictors of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) versus frontotemporal lobar degeneration pathology in primary progressive aphasia (PPA), and determine whether the AD pathology is atypically distributed to fit the aphasic phenotype.
Neuropsychological and neuropathological analyses of 23 consecutive PPA autopsies. All had qualitative determination of neurofibrillary tangle (NFT) density. Additional quantitation was done in four of the PPA/AD cases and four AD cases with the typical amnestic dementia of the Alzheimer type.
The sample contained mostly logopenic, agrammatic, and mixed forms of PPA. All six agrammatics had frontotemporal lobar degeneration (five of six with tauopathy). Seven of the 11 logopenics had AD. In logopenics, lower memory scores increased the probability of AD, but there were exceptions. The PPA/AD group showed predominance of entorhinal NFT typical of the amnestic dementia of the Alzheimer type. In the small subgroup examined quantitatively, neocortical NFTs were more numerous in the left hemisphere of PPA/AD. However, the asymmetry was low and inconsistent. Neuritic plaques did not display consistent asymmetry. Apolipoprotein E4, a major risk factor for typical AD, did not predict AD pathology in PPA.
Subtyping PPA helps to predict AD versus frontotemporal lobar degeneration pathology at the group level. However, our results and the literature also indicate that no clinical predictor is completely reliable in individual patients. The inconsistent concordance of NFT distribution with the asymmetric atrophy and the nonamnestic phenotype also raises the possibility that the AD markers encountered at autopsy in PPA may not always reflect the nature of the initiating neurodegenerative process.
Deposits of abnormally hyperphosphorylated tau are a hallmark of several dementias, including Alzheimer disease (AD), and about 10% of familial frontotemporal dementia (FTD) cases are caused by mutations in the tau gene. As a known tau kinase, GSK3B is a promising candidate gene in the remaining cases of FTD and in AD, for which tau mutations have not been found.
To examine the promoter of GSK3B and all 12 exons, including the surrounding intronic sequence, in patients with FTD, patients with AD, and aged healthy subjects to identify single-nucleotide polymorphisms associated with disease.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Single-nucleotide polymorphism frequency was examined in a case-control cohort of 48 patients with probable AD, 102 patients with FTD, 38 patients with primary progressive aphasia, and 85 aged healthy subjects. Results were followed up in 2 independent AD family samples consisting of 437 multiplex families with AD (National Institute of Mental Health Genetics Initiative AD Study) or 150 sibships discordant for AD (Consortium on Alzheimer’s Genetics Study).
Several rare sequence variants in GSK3B were identified in the case-control study. An intronic polymorphism (IVS2−68G>A) occurred at more than twice the frequency among patients with FTD (10.8%) and patients with AD (14.6%) than in aged healthy subjects (4.1%). The polymorphism showed association with disease in both follow-up samples independently, although only the Consortium on Alzheimer’s Genetics sample showed the same direction of association as the case-control sample.
To our knowledge, this is the first evidence that a gene known to be involved in tau phosphorylation, GSK3B, is associated with risk for primary neurodegenerative dementias. This supports previous work in animal models suggesting that such genes are therapeutic targets.
The inability to name objects (anomia) is one of the most common findings in the neurologic examination of primary progressive aphasia (PPA). In the semantic variant of PPA, the anomia is profound and reflects a combination of object naming and word comprehension deficits. In contrast, nonsemantic variants of PPA display a more selective impairment of object naming, without corresponding impairments of word comprehension. The aim of the present study was to explore the nature of the anomia in nonsemantic variants of PPA with a sensitive chronometric test of covert word/picture association. We tested priming effects in 12 patients with nonsemantic variant of PPA and 18 controls. Stimuli consisted of written words and line pictures of concrete objects. Within-format (word-word and picture-picture) and cross-format (word-picture and picture-word) priming effects were assessed by measuring the shortening of response times to the second versus initial presentation of corresponding stimulus pairs. In addition to the expected impairment of picture-to-word priming, a condition simulating object naming, the nonsemantic PPA patients also showed unexpected impairments of word-to-picture and word-to-word priming. Picture-to-picture priming was preserved, demonstrating the selectivity of the deficit for lexical processing. These findings show that the information processing bottleneck in patients with nonsemantic variants of PPA is not confined to the stage of lexical access but that it also extends into the prior levels of lexical semantics. The boundaries between the semantic and nonsemantic variants are therefore far from rigid.
dementia; frontotemporal dementia; priming; naming; anomia
Few themes have been more central to neurological models of aphasia than the disconnection paradigm and the role of the arcuate fasciculus. Introduced by luminaries of 19th Century neurology and resurrected by the charismatic work of Norman Geschwind, the disconnection theme has triggered spectacular advances of modern understanding of language and aphasia. But the disconnection paradigm had alternate fortunes, ranging from irrational exuberance to benign neglect, and its followers have not always shared the same view on its functional consequences and anatomical correlates. Our goal in this paper is, first, to survey the 19th Century roots of the connectionist approach to aphasia and, second, to describe emerging imaging technologies based on diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) that promise to consolidate and expand the disconnection approach to language and its disorders.
Arcuate fasciculus; Aphasia; Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI); Language; Tractography