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1.  Clinicopathologic and 11C-Pittsburgh compound B implications of Thal amyloid phase across the Alzheimer’s disease spectrum 
Brain  2015;138(5):1370-1381.
Murray et al. examine the correspondence between Thal amyloid phase, tau pathology and clinical characteristics in a large Alzheimer’s disease autopsy series. They extrapolate their findings to an autopsy cohort for which Pittsburgh compound-B imaging data are available, and evaluate the neuropathological significance of a quantitative amyloid-β imaging cut-off point.
Murray et al. examine the correspondence between Thal amyloid phase, tau pathology and clinical characteristics in a large Alzheimer’s disease autopsy series. They extrapolate their findings to an autopsy cohort for which Pittsburgh compound-B imaging data are available, and evaluate the neuropathological significance of a quantitative amyloid-β imaging cut-off point.
Thal amyloid phase, which describes the pattern of progressive amyloid-β plaque deposition in Alzheimer’s disease, was incorporated into the latest National Institute of Ageing – Alzheimer’s Association neuropathologic assessment guidelines. Amyloid biomarkers (positron emission tomography and cerebrospinal fluid) were included in clinical diagnostic guidelines for Alzheimer’s disease dementia published by the National Institute of Ageing – Alzheimer’s Association and the International Work group. Our first goal was to evaluate the correspondence of Thal amyloid phase to Braak tangle stage and ante-mortem clinical characteristics in a large autopsy cohort. Second, we examined the relevance of Thal amyloid phase in a prospectively-followed autopsied cohort who underwent ante-mortem 11C-Pittsburgh compound B imaging; using the large autopsy cohort to broaden our perspective of 11C-Pittsburgh compound B results. The Mayo Clinic Jacksonville Brain Bank case series (n = 3618) was selected regardless of ante-mortem clinical diagnosis and neuropathologic co-morbidities, and all assigned Thal amyloid phase and Braak tangle stage using thioflavin-S fluorescent microscopy. 11C-Pittsburgh compound B studies from Mayo Clinic Rochester were available for 35 participants scanned within 2 years of death. Cortical 11C-Pittsburgh compound B values were calculated as a standard uptake value ratio normalized to cerebellum grey/white matter. In the high likelihood Alzheimer’s disease brain bank cohort (n = 1375), cases with lower Thal amyloid phases were older at death, had a lower Braak tangle stage, and were less frequently APOE-ε4 positive. Regression modelling in these Alzheimer’s disease cases, showed that Braak tangle stage, but not Thal amyloid phase predicted age at onset, disease duration, and final Mini-Mental State Examination score. In contrast, Thal amyloid phase, but not Braak tangle stage or cerebral amyloid angiopathy predicted 11C-Pittsburgh compound B standard uptake value ratio. In the 35 cases with ante-mortem amyloid imaging, a transition between Thal amyloid phases 1 to 2 seemed to correspond to 11C-Pittsburgh compound B standard uptake value ratio of 1.4, which when using our pipeline is the cut-off point for detection of clear amyloid-positivity regardless of clinical diagnosis. Alzheimer’s disease cases who were older and were APOE-ε4 negative tended to have lower amyloid phases. Although Thal amyloid phase predicted clinical characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease patients, the pre-mortem clinical status was driven by Braak tangle stage. Thal amyloid phase correlated best with 11C-Pittsburgh compound B values, but not Braak tangle stage or cerebral amyloid angiopathy. The 11C-Pittsburgh compound B cut-off point value of 1.4 was approximately equivalent to a Thal amyloid phase of 1–2.
PMCID: PMC4407190  PMID: 25805643
Alzheimer’s disease; neuropathology; Thal amyloid phase; Pittsburgh compound B; Braak tangle stage
2.  A Quantitative Postmortem MRI Design Sensitive to White Matter Hyperintensity Differences and their Relationship with Underlying Pathology 
White matter hyperintensities (WMHs) associate with both cognitive slowing and motor dysfunction in the neurologically normal elderly. A full understanding of the pathology underlying this clinicoradiologic finding is currently lacking in autopsy-confirmed normal brains. To determine the histopathologic basis of WMH seen on MRI, we studied the relationship between postmortem fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) intensity and neuropathologic markers of white matter lesions (WMLs) that correspond to WMH in cognitively normal aging brains. Samples of periventricular (n = 24), subcortical (n = 26), and normal-appearing white matter (NAWM, n = 31) from 4 clinically and pathologically-confirmed normal cases were examined. FLAIR intensity, vacuolation, and myelin basic protein (MBP) immunoreactivity loss were significantly higher in periventricular WML vs. subcortical WML; both were higher than in NAWM. The subcortical WML and NAWM had significantly less axonal loss, astrocytic burden, microglial density, and oligodendrocyte loss than the periventricular WML. Thus, vacuolation, myelin density and small vessel density contribute to the rarefaction of white matter whereas axonal density, oligodendrocyte density, astroglial burden and microglial density did not. These data suggest that the age-related loss of MBP and a decrease in small vessel density, may contribute to vacuolation of white matter. The vacuolation enables interstitial fluid to accumulate, which contributes to the prolonged T2 relaxation and elevated FLAIR intensity in the white matter.
PMCID: PMC3511604  PMID: 23147507
Digital microscopy; Fluid attenuated inversion recovery; Normal aging; Oligodendrocytes; Postmortem magnetic resonance imaging; White matter
3.  Severe amygdala dysfunction in a MAPT transgenic mouse model of frontotemporal dementia 
Neurobiology of aging  2013;35(7):1769-1777.
Frontotemporal dementia with Parkinsonism-linked to chromosome 17 (FTDP-17) is a neurodegenerative tauopathy caused by mutations in the tau gene (MAPT). Individuals with FTDP-17 have deficits in learning, memory and language, in addition to personality and behavioral changes that are often characterized by a lack of social inhibition. Several transgenic mouse models expressing tau mutations have been tested extensively for memory or motor impairments, though reports of amygdala-dependent behaviors are lacking. To this end, we tested the rTg4510 mouse model on a behavioral battery that included amygdala-dependent tasks of exploration. As expected, rTg4510 mice exhibit profound impairments in hippocampal-dependent learning and memory tests, including contextual fear conditioning. However, rTg4510 mice also display an abnormal hyper-exploratory phenotype in the open field assay, elevated plus maze, light-dark exploration, and cued fear conditioning, indicative of amygdala dysfunction. Furthermore, significant tau burden is detected in the amygdala of both rTg4510 mice and human FTDP-17 patients, suggesting that the rTg4510 mouse model recapitulates the behavioral disturbances and neurodegeneration of the amygdala characteristic of FTDP-17.
PMCID: PMC3992979  PMID: 24503275
Frontotemporal dementia; Tau; tauopathy; amygdala; neurodegeneration
4.  TDP-43 in Alzheimer’s disease is not associated with clinical FTLD or Parkinsonism 
Journal of neurology  2014;261(7):1344-1348.
Widespread deposition of TAR DNA-binding protein of 43 kDa (TDP-43), a major protein inclusion commonly found in frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) can also be seen in a subset of cases with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Some of these AD cases have TDP-43 immunoreactivity in basal ganglia (BG) and substantia nigra (SN), regions that when affected can be associated with parkinsonian signs or symptoms, or even features suggestive of frontotemporal dementia. Here, we examined the presence of clinical features of FTLD, parkinsonian signs and symptoms, and BG atrophy on MRI, in 51 pathologically confirmed AD cases (Braak neurofibrillary tangle stage IV–VI) with widespread TDP-43 deposition, with and without BG and SN involvement. All 51 cases had presented with progressive cognitive impairment with prominent memory deficits. None of the patients demonstrated early behavioral disinhibition, apathy, loss of empathy, stereotyped behavior, hyperorality, and/or executive deficits. Furthermore, TDP-43 deposition in BG or SN had no significant association with tremor (p = 0.80), rigidity (p = 0.19), bradykinesia (p = 0.19), and gait/postural instability (p = 0.39). Volumes of the BG structures were not associated with TDP-43 deposition in the BG. The present study demonstrates that TDP-43 deposition in pathologically confirmed AD cases is not associated with a clinical manifestation suggestive of FTLD, or parkinsonian features.
PMCID: PMC4101047  PMID: 24760339
TDP-43; Alzheimer’s disease; Frontotemporal dementia; Parkinsonism
5.  LRRK2 exonic variants and risk of multiple system atrophy 
Neurology  2014;83(24):2256-2261.
The aim of this study was to evaluate the association between common exonic variants in the leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) gene and risk of multiple system atrophy (MSA).
One series from the United States (92 patients with pathologically confirmed MSA, 416 controls) and a second series from the United Kingdom (85 patients with pathologically confirmed MSA, 352 controls) were included in this case-control study. We supplemented these data with those of 53 patients from the United States with clinically probable or possible MSA. Seventeen common LRRK2 exonic variants were genotyped and assessed for association with MSA.
In the combined series of 177 patients with pathologically confirmed MSA and 768 controls, there was a significant association between LRRK2 p.M2397T and MSA (odds ratio [OR] = 0.60, p = 0.002). This protective effect was observed more strongly in the US series (OR = 0.46, p = 0.0008) than the UK series (OR = 0.82, p = 0.41). We observed other noteworthy associations with MSA for p.G1624G (OR = 0.63, p = 0.006) and p.N2081D (OR = 0.15, p = 0.010). The p.G1624G-M2397T haplotype was significantly associated with MSA in the US series (p < 0.0001) and combined series (p = 0.003) but not the UK series (p = 0.67). Results were consistent when additionally including the US patients with clinical MSA, where the strongest single-variant association was again observed for p.M2397T (OR = 0.59, p = 0.0005).
These findings provide evidence that LRRK2 exonic variants may contribute to susceptibility to MSA. Validation in other series and meta-analytic studies will be important.
PMCID: PMC4277668  PMID: 25378673
6.  Antemortem MRI findings associated with microinfarcts at autopsy 
Neurology  2014;82(22):1951-1958.
To determine antemortem MRI findings associated with microinfarcts at autopsy.
Patients with microinfarcts (n = 22) and patients without microinfarcts (n = 44) who underwent antemortem MRI were identified from a dementia clinic–based, population–based, and community clinic–based autopsy cohort. The microinfarct and no-microinfarct groups were matched on age at MRI, age at death, sex, APOE status, Mini-Mental State Examination score, and pathologic diagnosis of Alzheimer disease. Brain infarcts were assessed on fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) MRI. White matter hyperintensities on FLAIR MRI and hippocampal volumes on T1-weighted MRI were quantified using automated methods. A subset of subjects with microinfarcts (n = 15) and a matched group of subjects without microinfarcts (n = 15) had serial T1-weighted MRIs and were included in an analysis of global and regional brain atrophy rates using automated methods.
The presence of cortical (p = 0.03) and subcortical (p = 0.02) infarcts on antemortem MRI was associated with presence of microinfarcts at autopsy. Higher numbers of cortical (p = 0.05) and subcortical (p = 0.03) infarcts on antemortem MRI were also associated with presence of microinfarcts. Presence of microinfarcts was not associated with white matter hyperintensities and cross-sectional hippocampal volume on antemortem MRI. Whole-brain and regional precuneus, motor, and somatosensory atrophy rates were higher in subjects with microinfarcts compared to subjects without microinfarcts.
Microinfarcts increase brain atrophy rates independent of Alzheimer disease pathology. Association between microinfarct pathology and macroinfarcts on MRI suggests either common risk factors or a shared pathophysiology and potentially common preventive targets.
PMCID: PMC4105260  PMID: 24793188
7.  Early Alzheimer's Disease Neuropathology Detected by Proton MR Spectroscopy 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2014;34(49):16247-16255.
Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) is sensitive to early neurodegenerative processes associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD). Although 1H-MRS metabolite ratios of N-acetyl aspartate (NAA)/creatine (Cr), NAA/myoinositol (mI), and mI/Cr measured in the posterior cingulate gyrus reveal evidence of disease progression in AD, pathologic underpinnings of the 1H-MRS metabolite changes in AD are unknown. Pathologically diagnosed human cases ranging from no likelihood to high likelihood AD (n = 41, 16 females and 25 males) who underwent antemortem 1H-MRS of the posterior cingulate gyrus at 3 tesla were included in this study. Immunohistochemical evaluation was performed on the posterior cingulate gyrus using antibodies to synaptic vesicles, hyperphosphorylated tau (pTau), neurofibrillary tangle conformational-epitope (cNFT), amyloid-β, astrocytes, and microglia. The slides were digitally analyzed using Aperio software, which allows neuropathologic quantification in the posterior cingulate gray matter. MRS and pathology associations were adjusted for time from scan to death. Significant associations across AD and control subjects were found between reduced synaptic immunoreactivity and both NAA/Cr and NAA/mI in the posterior cingulate gyrus. Higher pTau burden was associated with lower NAA/Cr and NAA/mI. Higher amyloid-β burden was associated with elevated mI/Cr and lower NAA/mI ratios, but not with NAA/Cr. 1H-MRS metabolite levels reveal early neurodegenerative changes associated with AD pathology. Our findings support the hypothesis that a decrease in NAA/Cr is associated with loss of synapses and early pTau pathology, but not with amyloid-β or later accumulation of cNFT pathology in the posterior cingulate gyrus. In addition, elevation of mI/Cr is associated with the occurrence of amyloid-β plaques in AD.
PMCID: PMC4252542  PMID: 25471565
Alzheimer's disease; digital microscopy; magnetic resonance spectroscopy; neuropathology; posterior cingulate; tau
8.  TDP-43 is a key player in the clinical features associated with Alzheimer’s disease 
Acta neuropathologica  2014;127(6):811-824.
The aim of this study was to determine whether the TAR DNA-binding protein of 43kDa (TDP-43) independently has any effect on the clinical and neuroimaging features typically ascribed to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathology, and whether TDP-43 pathology could help shed light on the phenomenon of resilient cognition in AD. Three-hundred forty-two subjects pathologically diagnosed with AD were screened for the presence, burden and distribution of TDP-43. All had been classified as cognitively impaired or normal, prior to death. Atlas-based parcellation and voxel-based morphometry were used to assess regional atrophy on MRI. Regression models controlling for age at death, apolipoprotein ε4 and other AD-related pathologies were utilized to explore associations between TDP-43 and cognition or brain atrophy, stratified by Braak stage. Additionally, we determined whether the effects of TDP-43 were mediated by hippocampal sclerosis. One-hundred ninety-five (57%) cases were TDP-positive. After accounting for age, apolipoprotein ε4, and other pathologies, TDP-43 had a strong effect on cognition, memory loss, and medial temporal atrophy in AD. These effects were not mediated by hippocampal sclerosis. TDP-positive subjects were 10× more likely to be cognitively impaired at death compared to TDP-negative subjects. Greater cognitive impairment and medial temporal atrophy were associated with greater TDP-43 burden and more extensive TDP-43 distribution. TDP-43 is an important factor in the manifestation of the clinico-imaging features of AD. TDP-43 also appears to be able to overpower what has been termed resilient brain aging. TDP-43 therefore should be considered a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of AD.
PMCID: PMC4172544  PMID: 24659241
TDP-43; Alzheimer disease; resilience; APOE ε4; Braak stage; MRI
9.  Is pathological aging a successful resistance against amyloid-beta or preclinical Alzheimer’s disease? 
Individuals with pathological aging, a form of cerebral amyloidosis in older people, have widespread extracellular amyloid-beta (Aβ) senile plaque deposits in the setting of limited neurofibrillary tau pathology. Unlike the characteristic finding of antemortem cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s disease patients, individuals with pathological aging usually lack cognitive impairment despite similar Aβ senile plaque burdens. It has been hypothesized that protective or resistance factors may underlie pathological aging, thus minimizing or preventing deleterious effects on cognition. Despite increasing interest and recognition, a review of the literature remains challenging given the range of terms used to describe pathological aging. This debate briefly reviews neuropathologic and biochemical evidence that pathological aging individuals have resistance factors to Aβ plaque pathology. Additionally, we will discuss evidence of pathological aging as an intermediate between normal individuals and Alzheimer’s disease patients, and discuss protective or resistance factors against vascular disease and neurofibrillary pathology. Lastly, we will emphasize the need for longitudinal biomarker evidence using amyloid positron emission tomography, which will provide a better understanding of the kinetics of Aβ deposition in pathological aging.
PMCID: PMC4055017  PMID: 25031637
10.  Regional distribution of synaptic markers and APP correlate with distinct clinicopathological features in sporadic and familial Alzheimer’s disease 
Brain  2014;137(5):1533-1549.
Sporadic and familial Alzheimer’s disease differ in region-specific amyloid-β accumulation, pattern of neurodegeneration, and symptoms. Shinohara et al. quantify amyloid-β, tau and related molecules and reveal a synapse-associated pattern of amyloid-β42 in sporadic disease, and APP-associated amyloid-β42 in familial cases. Aberrant synaptic processes and APP processing respectively may drive these differences.
Recent studies suggest that subcortical structures, including striatum, are vulnerable to amyloid-β accumulation and other neuropathological features in familial Alzheimer’s disease due to autosomal dominant mutations. We explored differences between familial and sporadic Alzheimer’s disease that might shed light on their respective pathogenic mechanisms. To this end, we analysed 12 brain regions, including neocortical, limbic and subcortical areas, from post-mortem brains of familial Alzheimer’s disease (n = 10; age at death: 50.0 ± 8.6 years) with mutations in amyloid precursor protein (APP) or presenilin 1 (PSEN1), sporadic Alzheimer’s disease (n = 19; age at death: 84.7 ± 7.8 years), neurologically normal elderly without amyloid-β accumulation (normal ageing; n = 13, age at death: 82.9 ± 10.8 years) and neurologically normal elderly with extensive cortical amyloid-β deposits (pathological ageing; n = 15; age at death: 92.7 ± 5.9 years). The levels of amyloid-β40, amyloid-β42, APP, apolipoprotein E, the synaptic marker PSD95 (now known as DLG4), the astrocyte marker GFAP, other molecules related to amyloid-β metabolism, and tau were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. We observed that familial Alzheimer’s disease had disproportionate amyloid-β42 accumulation in subcortical areas compared with sporadic Alzheimer’s disease, whereas sporadic Alzheimer’s disease had disproportionate amyloid-β42 accumulation in cortical areas compared to familial Alzheimer’s disease. Compared with normal ageing, the levels of several proteins involved in amyloid-β metabolism were significantly altered in both sporadic and familial Alzheimer’s disease; however, such changes were not present in pathological ageing. Among molecules related to amyloid-β metabolism, the regional distribution of PSD95 strongly correlated with the regional pattern of amyloid-β42 accumulation in sporadic Alzheimer’s disease and pathological ageing, whereas the regional distribution of APP as well as β-C-terminal fragment of APP were strongly associated with the regional pattern of amyloid-β42 accumulation in familial Alzheimer’s disease. Apolipoprotein E and GFAP showed negative regional association with amyloid-β (especially amyloid-β40) accumulation in both sporadic and familial Alzheimer’s disease. Familial Alzheimer’s disease had greater striatal tau pathology than sporadic Alzheimer’s disease. In a retrospective medical record review, atypical signs and symptoms were more frequent in familial Alzheimer’s disease compared with sporadic Alzheimer’s disease. These results suggest that disproportionate amyloid-β42 accumulation in cortical areas in sporadic Alzheimer’s disease may be mediated by synaptic processes, whereas disproportionate amyloid-β42 accumulation in subcortical areas in familial Alzheimer’s disease may be driven by APP and its processing. Region-specific amyloid-β42 accumulation might account for differences in the relative amounts of tau pathology and clinical symptoms in familial and sporadic Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3999719  PMID: 24625695
Alzheimer’s disease; amyloid-β; neuroanatomy; APP; synapses
11.  Late-onset Alzheimer disease genetic variants in posterior cortical atrophy and posterior AD 
Neurology  2014;82(16):1455-1462.
To investigate association of genetic risk factors for late-onset Alzheimer disease (LOAD) with risk of posterior cortical atrophy (PCA), a syndrome of visual impairment with predominant Alzheimer disease (AD) pathology in posterior cortical regions, and with risk of “posterior AD” neuropathology.
We assessed 81 participants with PCA diagnosed clinically and 54 with neuropathologic diagnosis of posterior AD vs 2,523 controls for association with 11 significant single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from published LOAD risk genome-wide association studies.
There was highly significant association with APOE ε4 and increased risk of PCA (p = 0.0003, odds ratio [OR] = 3.17) and posterior AD (p = 1.11 × 10−17, OR = 6.43). No other locus was significant after corrections for multiple testing, although rs11136000 near CLU (p = 0.019, OR = 0.60) and rs744373 near BIN1 (p = 0.025, OR = 1. 63) associated nominally significantly with posterior AD, and rs3851179 at the PICALM locus had significant association with PCA (p = 0.0003, OR = 2.84). ABCA7 locus SNP rs3764650, which was also tested under the recessive model because of Hardy-Weinberg disequilibrium, also had nominally significant association with PCA risk. The direction of association at APOE, CLU, and BIN1 loci was the same for participants with PCA and posterior AD. The effects for all SNPs, except rs3851179, were consistent with those for LOAD risk.
We identified a significant effect for APOE and nominate CLU, BIN1, and ABCA7 as additional risk loci for PCA and posterior AD. Our findings suggest that at least some of the genetic risk factors for LOAD are shared with these atypical conditions and provide effect-size estimates for their future genetic studies.
PMCID: PMC4001196  PMID: 24670887
12.  Staging TDP-43 pathology in Alzheimer’s disease 
Acta neuropathologica  2013;127(3):441-450.
TDP-43 immunoreactivity occurs in 19–57% of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) cases. Two patterns of TDP-43 deposition in AD have been described involving hippocampus (Limbic) or hippocampus and neocortex (Diffuse), although focal amygdala involvement has been observed. In 195 AD cases with TDP-43, we investigated regional TDP-43 immunoreactivity with the aim of developing a TDP-43 in AD staging scheme. TDP-43 immunoreactivity was assessed in amygdala, entorhinal cortex, subiculum, hippocampal dentate gyrus, occipitotemporal, inferior temporal and frontal cortices, and basal ganglia. Clinical, neuroimaging, genetic and pathological characteristics were assessed across stages. Five stages were identified: stage I showed scant-sparse TDP-43 in the amygdala only (17%); stage II showed moderate-frequent amygdala TDP-43 with spread into entorhinal and subiculum (25%); stage III showed further spread into dentate gyrus and occipitotemporal cortex (31%); stage IV showed further spread into inferior temporal cortex (20%); and stage V showed involvement of frontal cortex and basal ganglia (7%). Cognition and medial temporal volumes differed across all stages and progression across stages correlated with worsening cognition and medial temporal volume loss. Compared to 147 AD patients without TDP-43, only the Boston Naming Test showed abnormalities in stage I. The findings demonstrate that TDP-43 deposition in AD progresses in a stereotypic manner that can be divided into five distinct topographic stages which are supported by correlations with clinical and neuroimaging features. Given these findings, we recommend sequential regional TDP-43 screening in AD beginning with the amygdala.
PMCID: PMC3944799  PMID: 24240737
Alzheimer disease; TDP-43; amygdala; TDP-43 type; staging; MRI
13.  TMEM106B protects C9ORF72 expansion carriers against frontotemporal dementia 
Acta neuropathologica  2014;127(3):397-406.
Variants in transmembrane protein 106 B (TMEM106B) modify the disease penetrance of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) in carriers of progranulin (GRN) mutations. We investigated whether TMEM106B is also a genetic modifier of disease in carriers of chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72) expansions. We assessed the genotype of 325 C9ORF72 expansion carriers (cohort 1), 586 FTD patients lacking C9ORF72 expansions (with or without motor neuron disease [MND]; cohort 2), and a total of 1,302 controls for TMEM106B variants (rs3173615 and rs1990622) using MassArray iPLEX and Taqman genotyping assays. For our primary analysis, we focused on functional variant rs3173615, and employed a recessive genotypic model. In cohort 1, patients with C9ORF72 expansions showed a significantly reduced frequency of carriers homozygous for the minor allele as compared to controls (11.9% versus 19.1%, odds ratio (OR): 0.57, p=0.014; same direction as carriers of GRN mutations). The strongest evidence was provided by FTD patients (OR: 0.33, p=0.009) followed by FTD/MND patients (OR: 0.38, p=0.017), whereas no significant difference was observed in MND patients (OR: 0.85, p=0.55). In cohort 2, the frequency of carriers homozygous for the minor allele was not significantly reduced in patients as compared to controls (OR: 0.77, p=0.079); however, a significant reduction was observed when focusing on those patients with frontotemporal lobar degeneration and TAR DNA-binding protein 43 inclusions (FTLD-TDP; OR: 0.26, p<0.001).
Our study identifies TMEM106B as the first genetic factor modifying disease presentation in C9ORF72 expansion carriers. Homozygosity for the minor allele protects carriers from developing FTD, but not from developing MND; similar effects are seen in FTLD-TDP patients with yet unknown genetic causes. These new findings show that the protective effects of TMEM106B are not confined to carriers of GRN mutations, and might be relevant for prognostic testing, and as a promising therapeutic target for the entire spectrum of FTLD-TDP.
PMCID: PMC3944829  PMID: 24385136
C9ORF72; TMEM106B; frontotemporal dementia; motor neuron disease; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; disease modifier
14.  Genetics of Vascular Dementia 
Minerva psichiatrica  2010;51(1):9-25.
Genetic studies are transforming the way we diagnose, evaluate and treat patients. The era of genome-wide association studies promised to discover common risk variants in heterogeneous disorders where previous small-scale association studies had on the whole failed. However, as we enter the post-association era a degree of disappoint is felt regarding the lack of risk factors with large effect for a number of disorders including vascular disease. Vascular disorders are sporadic by nature, though a familial component has been observed. This review will focus on vascular dementia, the genetic risk factors for vascular disorders and highlight how new technologies may overcome the limitations of genome-wide association and nominate those genes that influence disease risk.
PMCID: PMC4332411  PMID: 25705074
15.  Clinicopathologic assessment and imaging of tauopathies in neurodegenerative dementias 
Microtubule-associated protein tau encoded by the MAPT gene binds to microtubules and is important for maintaining neuronal morphology and function. Alternative splicing of MAPT pre-mRNA generates six major tau isoforms in the adult central nervous system resulting in tau proteins with three or four microtubule-binding repeat domains. In a group of neurodegenerative disorders called tauopathies, tau becomes aberrantly hyperphosphorylated and dissociates from microtubules, resulting in a progressive accumulation of intracellular tau aggregates. The spectrum of sporadic frontotemporal lobar degeneration associated with tau pathology includes progressive supranuclear palsy, corticobasal degeneration, and Pick’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is considered the most prevalent tauopathy. This review is divided into two broad sections. In the first section we discuss the molecular classification of sporadic tauopathies, with a focus on describing clinicopathologic relationships. In the second section we discuss the neuroimaging methodologies that are available for measuring tau pathology (directly using tau positron emission tomography ligands) and tau-mediated neuronal injury (magnetic resonance imaging and fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography). Both sections have detailed descriptions of the following neurodegenerative dementias – Alzheimer’s disease, progressive supranuclear palsy, corticobasal degeneration and Pick’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3978456  PMID: 24382028
16.  FUS is Phosphorylated by DNA-PK and Accumulates in the Cytoplasm after DNA Damage 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2014;34(23):7802-7813.
Abnormal cytoplasmic accumulation of Fused in Sarcoma (FUS) in neurons defines subtypes of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). FUS is a member of the FET protein family that includes Ewing's sarcoma (EWS) and TATA-binding protein-associated factor 2N (TAF15). FET proteins are predominantly localized to the nucleus, where they bind RNA and DNA to modulate transcription, mRNA splicing, and DNA repair. In ALS cases with FUS inclusions (ALS-FUS), mutations in the FUS gene cause disease, whereas FTLD cases with FUS inclusions (FTLD-FUS) do not harbor FUS mutations. Notably, in FTLD-FUS, all FET proteins accumulate with their nuclear import receptor Transportin 1 (TRN1), in contrast ALS-FUS inclusions are exclusively positive for FUS. In the present study, we show that induction of DNA damage replicates several pathologic hallmarks of FTLD-FUS in immortalized human cells and primary human neurons and astrocytes. Treatment with the antibiotic calicheamicin γ1, which causes DNA double-strand breaks, leads to the cytoplasmic accumulation of FUS, TAF15, EWS, and TRN1. Moreover, cytoplasmic translocation of FUS is mediated by phosphorylation of its N terminus by the DNA-dependent protein kinase. Finally, we observed elevated levels of phospho-H2AX in FTLD-FUS brains, indicating that DNA damage occurs in patients. Together, our data reveal a novel regulatory mechanism for FUS localization in cells and suggest that DNA damage may contribute to the accumulation of FET proteins observed in human FTLD-FUS cases, but not in ALS-FUS.
PMCID: PMC4044245  PMID: 24899704
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); cytoplasmic translocation; DNA damage; frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD); Fused in Sarcoma (FUS); phosphorylation
17.  MRI and pathology of REM sleep behavior disorder in dementia with Lewy bodies 
Neurology  2013;81(19):1681-1689.
To determine structural MRI and digital microscopic characteristics of REM sleep behavior disorder in individuals with low-, intermediate-, and high-likelihood dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) at autopsy.
Patients with autopsy-confirmed low-, intermediate-, and high-likelihood DLB, according to the probability statement recommended by the third report of the DLB Consortium, and antemortem MRI, were identified (n = 75). The clinical history was assessed for presence (n = 35) and absence (n = 40) of probable REM sleep behavior disorder (pRBD), and patients' antemortem MRIs were compared using voxel-based morphometry. Pathologic burdens of phospho-tau, β-amyloid, and α-synuclein were measured in regions associated with early neuropathologic involvement, the hippocampus and amygdala.
pRBD was present in 21 patients (60%) with high-likelihood, 12 patients (34%) with intermediate-likelihood, and 2 patients (6%) with low-likelihood DLB. Patients with pRBD were younger, more likely to be male (p ≤ 0.001), and had a more frequent neuropathologic diagnosis of diffuse (neocortical) Lewy body disease. In the hippocampus and amygdala, phospho-tau and β-amyloid burden were lower in patients with pRBD compared with those without pRBD (p < 0.01). α-Synuclein burden did not differ in the hippocampus, but trended in the amygdala. Patients without pRBD had greater atrophy of temporoparietal cortices, hippocampus, and amygdala (p < 0.001) than those with pRBD; atrophy of the hippocampus (p = 0.005) and amygdala (p = 0.02) were associated with greater phospho-tau burdens in these regions.
Presence of pRBD is associated with a higher likelihood of DLB and less severe Alzheimer-related pathology in the medial temporal lobes, whereas absence of pRBD is characterized by Alzheimer-like atrophy patterns on MRI and increased phospho-tau burden.
PMCID: PMC3812105  PMID: 24107861
18.  Quantitative neurofibrillary tangle density and brain volumetric MRI analyses in Alzheimer’s disease presenting as logopenic progressive aphasia 
Brain and language  2013;127(2):10.1016/j.bandl.2013.02.003.
Neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) are one of the key histological lesions of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and are associated with brain atrophy. We assessed regional NFT density in 30 patients with AD, 10 of which presented as the logopenic variant of primary progressive aphasia (lvPPA) and 20 that presented as dementia of the Alzheimer’s type (DAT). Regional grey matter volumes were measured using antemortem MRI. NFT density was significantly higher in left temporoparietal cortices in lvPPA compared to DAT, with no differences observed in hippocampus. There was a trend for the ratio of temporoparietal-to-hippocampal NFT density to be higher in lvPPA. The imaging findings mirrored the pathological findings, with smaller left temporoparietal volumes observed in lvPPA compared to DAT, and no differences observed in hippocampal volume. This study demonstrates that lvPPA is associated with a phenomenon of enhanced temporoparietal neurodegeneration, a finding that improves our understanding of the biological basis of lvPPA.
PMCID: PMC3840097  PMID: 23541297
Primary progressive aphasia; Logopenic variant of primary progressive aphasia; Alzheimer’s disease; Neurofibrillary tangles; Hippocampus; MRI; Apolipoprotein E; TDP-43; Voxel-based morphometry; Alzheimer’s dementia
19.  Associations of repeat sizes with clinical and pathological characteristics in C9ORF72 expansion carriers (Xpansize-72): a cross-sectional cohort study 
Lancet neurology  2013;12(10):10.1016/S1474-4422(13)70210-2.
Hexanucleotide repeat expansions in chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72) are currently the major genetic cause of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and motor neuron disease (MND). Presently, it is unknown whether expansion size affects disease severity or phenotypes.
We performed a cross-sectional Southern blot characterization study (Xpansize-72) in a cohort of subjects obtained at the Mayo Clinic and Banner Sun Health Research Institute. All subjects carried GGGGCC repeat expansions in C9ORF72, and high quality DNA was available from the frontal cortex, cerebellum and/or blood. Southern blotting techniques and densitometry were employed to estimate the repeat size of the most abundant expansion species. Comparisons of repeat sizes between tissues were made using Wilcoxon rank sum and Wilcoxon signed rank tests, and between disease subgroups using Kruskal-Wallis rank sum tests. The association of repeat size with age at onset and age at collection was evaluated using a Spearman’s test of correlation; whereas the association between repeat size and survival after disease onset was examined using Cox proportional hazards regression models.
Our cohort consisted of 84 C9ORF72 expansion carriers, including FTD patients (n=35), FTD/MND patients (n=16), MND patients (n=30), and unaffected subjects (n=3). We focused our analysis on three major tissue subgroups: frontal cortex (41 subjects [21 FTD, 11 FTD/MND, 9 MND]), cerebellum (40 subjects [20 FTD, 12 FTD/MND, 8 MND]), and blood (50 subjects [15 FTD, 9 FTD/MND, 23 MND, 3 unaffected expansion carriers]). Repeat lengths in the cerebellum were significantly smaller (median 12·3 kb [~1667 repeat units], IQR 11·1–14·3) than in the frontal cortex (median 33·8 kb [~5250 repeat units], IQR 23·5–44·9, p<0·0001), or in blood (median 18·6 kb [~2717 repeat units], IQR 13·9–28·1, p=0·0002). Within these tissues, there was no significant difference in repeat length between disease subgroups (cerebellum p=0·96, frontal cortex p=0·27, blood p=0·10). In the frontal cortex of FTD patients, repeat length correlated with age at onset (r=0·63, p=0·003) and age at collection (r=0·58, p=0·006); this correlation was not detected in the cerebellum or blood. Finally, only in the cerebellum, survival after disease onset was poorer in patients from our overall cohort with repeat lengths greater than 1467 repeat units (25th percentile, HR 3·27, 95% CI 1·34–7·95, p=0·009): the median survival was 4·8 years (IQR 3·0–7·4) in the group with longer expansions versus 7·4 years (IQR 6·3–10·9) in the group with smaller expansions.
Substantial variation in repeat size is observed between cerebellum, frontal cortex, and blood; relatively long repeat sizes in the cerebellum confer an important survival disadvantage. Our findings indicate that expansion size does affect disease severity, which could be relevant for genetic counseling.
PMCID: PMC3879782  PMID: 24011653
20.  Progressive Amnestic Dementia, Hippocampal Sclerosis, and Mutation in C9ORF72 
Acta neuropathologica  2013;126(4):545-554.
The most common cause of familial frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TAR DNA-binding protein-43 pathology (FTLD-TDP) has been found to be an expansion of a hexanucleotide repeat (GGGGCC) in a noncoding region of the gene C9ORF72. Hippocampal sclerosis (HpScl) is a common finding in FTLD-TDP. Our objective was to screen for the presence of C9ORF72 hexanucleotide repeat expansions in a pathologically-confirmed cohort of “pure” hippocampal sclerosis cases (n=33), outside the setting of FTLD-TDP and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Using a recently described repeat-associated non-ATG (RAN) translation (C9RANT) antibody that was found to be highly specific for c9FTD/ALS, we identified a single “pure” HpScl autopsy case with a repeat expansion in C9ORF72 (c9HpScl). Mutation screening was also performed with repeat-primed polymerase chain reaction and further confirmed with southern blotting. The c9HpScl patient had a 14-year history of a slowly progressive amnestic syndrome and a clinical diagnosis of probable AD. Neuropsychological testing revealed memory impairment, but no deficits in other cognitive domains. Autopsy showed hippocampal sclerosis with TDP-43 immunoreactive neuronal inclusions relatively limited to limbic lobe structures. Neuritic pathology immunoreactive for p62 was more frequent than TDP-43 in amygdala and hippocampus. Frequent p62 positive neuronal inclusions were present in cerebellar granule neurons as is typical of C9ORF72 mutation carriers. There was no significant FTLD or motor neuron disease. C9RANT was found to be sensitive and specific in this autopsy-confirmed series of HpScl cases. The findings in this patient suggest that the clinical and pathologic spectrum of C9ORF72 repeat expansion is wider than frontotemporal dementia and motor neuron disease, including cases of progressive amnestic dementia with restricted TDP-43 pathology associated with HpScl.
PMCID: PMC3926101  PMID: 23922030
Hippocampus; C9ORF72; memory; neuropathology; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; C9RANT
21.  Genetic modifiers in carriers of repeat expansions in the C9ORF72 gene 
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.
PMCID: PMC4190282  PMID: 25239657
C9ORF72; Frontotemporal dementia; Motor neuron disease; Genetic modifier; Repeat expansion
22.  Optineurin immunoreactivity in neuronal and glial intranuclear inclusions in adult-onset neuronal intranuclear inclusion disease 
Optineurin (OPTN) is a multifunctional protein involved in cellular morphogenesis, vesicle trafficking, maintenance of the Golgi complex, and transcription activation through its interactions with the Rab8, myosin 6 (MYO6), huntingtin. Recently, OPTN immunoreactivity has been reported in intranuclear inclusions in patients with neuronal intranuclear inclusions disease (NIID). Other studies have shown that the RNA-binding protein, fused in sarcoma (FUS), is a component of intranuclear inclusions in NIID. We aimed to investigate the relationship between OPTN, its binding protein MYO6 and FUS in this study. In control subjects, OPTN (C-terminal) (OPTN-C) and MYO6 immunoreactivity was mainly demonstrated in the cytoplasm of neurons. In NIID patients, both neuronal intranuclear inclusions (NII) and glial intranuclear inclusions (GII) were immunopositive for MYO6 as well as OPTN-C. However, the intensity of OPTN-C immunostaining of the neuronal cytoplasm with and without NII was less than that of the control subjects. Double immunofluorescence staining for OPTN-C, ubiquitin (Ub), p62 and FUS revealed co-localization of these proteins within NII. Moreover, Ub positive inclusions were co-localized with MYO6. The percentage of co-localization of Ub with OPTN-C, FUS or MYO6 in NII was 100%, 52% and 92%, respectively. Ultrastructurally, the inclusions consisted of thin and thick filaments. Both filaments were immunopositive for Ub and OPTN-C. These findings suggest that OPTN plays a central role in the disease pathogenesis, and that OPTN may be a major component of NII.
PMCID: PMC4162590  PMID: 25232514
Optineurin; Myosin-6; neuronal intranuclear inclusion disease; FUS; intranuclear inclusion
23.  Similarities between familial and sporadic autopsy-proven progressive supranuclear palsy 
Neurology  2013;80(22):2076-2078.
Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) is a relatively common neurodegenerative tauopathy clinically characterized by parkinsonism, axial rigidity, and supranuclear gaze palsy. Pathologic findings of PSP are neuronal loss, gliosis, and neurofibrillary tangles in basal ganglia, diencephalon, and brainstem; there is increasing recognition of clinicopathologic variants of PSP.1
PMCID: PMC3716405  PMID: 23635960
24.  Corticobasal degeneration with olivopontocerebellar atrophy and TDP-43 pathology: an unusual clinicopathologic variant of CBD 
Acta neuropathologica  2013;125(5):741-752.
CBD is a disorder affecting cognition and movement due to a progressive neurodegeneration associated with distinctive neuropathologic features, including abnormal phosphorylated tau protein in neurons and glia in cortex, basal ganglia, diencephalon and brainstem, as well as ballooned neurons and astrocytic plaques. We identified three cases of CBD with olivopontocerebellar atrophy (CBD-OPCA) that did not have α-synuclein-positive glial cytoplasmic inclusions of multiple system atrophy (MSA). Two patients had clinical features suggestive of progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), and the third case had cerebellar ataxia thought to be due to idiopathic OPCA. Neuropathologic features of CBD-OPCA are compared to typical CBD, as well as MSA and PSP. CBD-OPCA and MSA had marked neuronal loss in pontine nuclei, inferior olivary nucleus, and Purkinje cell layer. Neuronal loss and grumose degeneration in the cerebellar dentate nucleus was comparable in CBD-OPCA and PSP. Image analysis of tau pathology showed greater infratentorial tau burden, especially in pontine base, in CBD-OPCA compared with typical CBD. Additionally, CBD-OPCA had TDP-43 immunoreactive neuronal and glial cytoplasmic inclusions and threads throughout the basal ganglia and in olivopontocerebellar system. CBD-OPCA met neuropathologic research diagnostic criteria for CBD and shared tau biochemical characteristics with typical CBD. These results suggest that CBD-OPCA is a distinct clinicopathologic variant of CBD with olivopontocerebellar TDP-43 pathology.
PMCID: PMC3633676  PMID: 23371366
Corticobasal degeneration; olivopontocerebellar atrophy; tauopathy; multiple system atrophy; progressive supranuclear palsy; TDP-43
25.  Tau Pathology in Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration with C9ORF72 Hexanucleotide Repeat Expansion 
Acta neuropathologica  2012;125(2):289-302.
An expanded GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat in C9ORF72 is the most common genetic cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration associated with TDP-43 pathology (FTLD-TDP). In addition to TDP-43-positive neuronal and glial inclusions, C9ORF72-linked FTLD-TDP has characteristic TDP-43-negative neuronal cytoplasmic and intranuclear inclusions as well as dystrophic neurites in the hippocampus and cerebellum. These lesions are immunopositive for ubiquitin and ubiquitin-binding proteins, such as sequestosome-1/p62 and ubiquilin-2. Studies examining the frequency of the C9ORF72 mutation in clinically probable Alzheimer’s disease (AD) have found a small proportion of AD cases with the mutation. This prompted us to systematically explore the frequency of Alzheimer type pathology in a series of 17 FTLD-TDP cases with mutations in C9ORF72 (FTLD-C9ORF72). We identified 4 cases with sufficient Alzheimer type pathology to meet criteria for intermediate-to-high likelihood AD. We compared AD pathology in the 17 FTLD-C9ORF72 to 13 cases of FTLD-TDP linked to mutations in the gene for progranulin (FTLD-GRN) and 36 cases of sporadic FTLD (sFTLD). FTLD-C9ORF72 cases had higher Braak neurofibrillary tangle stage than FTLD-GRN. Increased tau pathology in FTLD-C9ORF72 was assessed with thioflavin-S fluorescent microscopy-based neurofibrillary tangle counts and with image analysis of tau burden in temporal cortex and hippocampus. FTLD-C9ORF72 had significantly more neurofibrillary tangles and higher tau burden compared with FTLD-GRN. The differences were most marked in limbic regions. On the other hand, sFTLD and FTLD-C9ORF72 had a similar burden of tau pathology. These results suggest FTLD-C9ORF72 has increased propensity for tau pathology compared to FTLD-GRN, but not sFTLD. The accumulation of tau as well as lesions immunoreactive for ubiquitin and ubiquitin binding proteins (p62 and ubiquilin-2) suggests that mutations in C9ORF72 may involve disrupted protein degradation that favors accumulation of multiple different proteins.
PMCID: PMC3551994  PMID: 23053135
frontotemporal lobar degeneration; C9ORF72; ubiquitin; p62; ubiquilin-2; tau

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