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1.  ALS-Plus Syndrome: Non-Pyramidal Features in a Large ALS Cohort 
Objective
Autopsy studies show widespread pathology in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), but clinical surveys of multisystem disease in ALS are rare. We investigated ALS-Plus syndrome, an understudied group of patients with clinical features extending beyond pyramidal and neuromuscular systems with or without cognitive/behavioral deficits.
Methods
In a large, consecutively-ascertained cohort of 550 patients with ALS, we documented atypical clinical manifestations. Genetic screening for C9orf72 hexanucleotide expansions was performed in 343 patients, and SOD1, TARDBP, and VCP were tested in the subgroup of patients with a family history of ALS. Gray matter and white matter imaging was available in a subgroup of 30 patients.
Results
Seventy-five (13.6%) patients were identified with ALS-Plus syndrome. We found disorders of ocular motility, cerebellar, extrapyramidal and autonomic functioning. Relative to those without ALS-Plus, cognitive impairment (8.0% vs 2.9%, p=0.029), bulbar-onset (49.3% vs 23.2%, p<0.001), and pathogenic mutations (20.0% vs 8.4%, p=0.015) were more than twice as common in ALS-Plus. Survival was significantly shorter in ALS-Plus (29.66 months vs 42.50 months, p=0.02), regardless of bulbar-onset or mutation status. Imaging revealed significantly greater cerebellar and cerebral disease in ALS-Plus compared to those without ALS-Plus.
Conclusions
ALS-Plus syndrome is not uncommon, and the presence of these atypical features is consistent with neuropathological observations that ALS is a multisystem disorder. ALS-Plus syndrome is associated with increased risk for poor survival and the presence of a pathogenic mutation.
doi:10.1016/j.jns.2014.07.022
PMCID: PMC4177937  PMID: 25086858
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; survival; genetics; oculomotor; extrapyramidal; cerebellar; autonomic; cognitive
2.  C9ORF72 repeat expansions in cases with previously identified pathogenic mutations 
Neurology  2013;81(15):1332-1341.
Objective:
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.
Methods:
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.
Results:
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.
Conclusions:
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.
doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182a8250c
PMCID: PMC3806926  PMID: 24027057
3.  Cognitive decline and reduced survival in C9orf72 expansion Frontotemporal degeneration and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 
Background
Significant heterogeneity in clinical features of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) cases with the pathogenic C9orf72 expansion (C9P) have been described. To clarify this issue, we compared a large C9P cohort with carefully matched non-expansion (C9N) cases with a known or highly-suspected underlying TDP-43 proteinopathy.
Methods
A retrospective-cohort study using available cross-sectional and longitudinal clinical and neuropsychological data, MRI voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and neuropathological assessment from 64 C9P cases (ALS=31, FTLD=33) and 79 C9N cases (ALS=36, FTLD=43).
Results
C9P cases had an earlier age of onset (p=0.047), and in the subset of deceased patients, an earlier age of death (p=0.014) than C9N. C9P had more rapid progression than C9N: C9P ALS cases had a shortened survival (2.6±0.3 years) compared to C9N ALS (3.8±0.4 years; log-rankλ2=4.183,p=0.041), and C9P FTLD showed a significantly greater annualized rate of decline in letter fluency (4.5±1.3words/year) than C9N FTLD (1.4±0.8words/year, p=0.023). VBM revealed greater atrophy in the right fronto-insular, thalamus, cerebellum and bilateral parietal regions for C9P FTLD relative to C9N FTLD, and regression analysis related verbal fluency scores to atrophy in frontal and parietal regions. Neuropathologic analysis found greater neuronal loss in the mid-frontal cortex in C9P FTLD, and mid-frontal cortex TDP-43 inclusion severity correlated with poor letter fluency performance.
Conclusions
C9P cases may have a shorter survival in ALS and more rapid rate of cognitive decline related to frontal and parietal disease in FTLD. C9orf72 genotyping may provide useful prognostic and diagnostic clinical information for ALS and FTLD patients.
doi:10.1136/jnnp-2012-303507
PMCID: PMC3543474  PMID: 23117491
Frontotemporal dementia; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; C9orf72; neuropsychological tests; neuroimaging
4.  TARDBP mutations in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with TDP-43 neuropathology: a genetic and histopathological analysis 
Lancet neurology  2008;7(5):409-416.
SUMMARY
BACKGROUND
TDP-43 is a major component of the ubiquitinated inclusions that characterise amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) with ubiquitin inclusions (FTLD-U). TDP-43 is an RNA-binding and DNA-binding protein that has many functions and is encoded by the TAR DNA-binding protein gene (TARDBP) on chromosome 1. Our aim was to investigate whether TARDBP is a candidate disease gene for familial ALS that is not associated with mutations in superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1).
METHODS
TARDBP was sequenced in 259 patients with ALS, FTLD, or both. We used TaqMan-based SNP genotyping to screen for the identifi ed variants in control groups matched to two kindreds of patients for age and ethnic origin. Additional clinical, genetic, and pathological assessments were made in these two families.
FINDINGS
We identified two variants, p.Gly290Ala and p.Gly298Ser, in TARDBP in two familial ALS kindreds and we observed TDP-43 neuropathology in the CNS tissue available from one family. The variants are considered pathogenic mutations because they co-segregate with disease in both families, are absent in ethnically-matched controls, and are associated with TDP-43 neuropathology in several family members.
INTERPRETATION
The p.Gly290Ala and p.Gly298Ser mutations are located in the glycine-rich domain that regulates gene expression and mediates protein-protein interactions; in particular TDP-43 binds to heterogeneous ribonucleoproteins (hnRNPs) via this domain. We postulate that due to the varied and important cellular functions of TDP-43, these mutations may cause neurodegeneration through both gains and losses of function. The finding of TARDBP mutations implicates TDP-43 as an active mediator of neurodegeneration in a novel class of disorders, TDP-43 proteinopathies, a class of disorder that includes ALS and FTLD-U.
doi:10.1016/S1474-4422(08)70071-1
PMCID: PMC3546119  PMID: 18396105
5.  Prenatal healthcare providers’ Gaucher disease carrier screening practices 
Purpose
Gaucher disease (GD) carrier screening is controversial in the medical community. The goal of this study was to explore prenatal healthcare providers’ current GD carrier screening practices.
Methods
Prenatal healthcare providers were invited by email to complete an electronic-based survey.
Results
A total of 1454 prenatal healthcare providers, including 209 genetic counselors, 450 midwives, and 795 physicians, completed the study. The majority of genetic counselors (n=208/209, >99%), physicians (n=415/450, 92%), and midwives (n=634/795, 80%) currently offer Jewish ancestry disease carrier screening to couples in whom one or both partners are Jewish. Of providers who offer Jewish ancestry disease screening, the majority of genetic counselors (n=199/208, 96%) and physicians (n=352/415, 85%) always or sometimes offer GD screening whereas the majority of midwives (n=357/634, 56%) never offer GD screening.
Conclusion
This study presents the first report of prenatal healthcare providers’ GD carrier screening practices in North America. Our results indicate that GD carrier screening is being offered at a high rate within the scope of Jewish ancestry-based carrier screening. This may highlight a need to move away from the debate as to whether GD carrier screening should be offered and, instead, focus on how best to provide GD carrier screening services.
doi:10.1038/gim.2012.63
PMCID: PMC3530379  PMID: 22653536
Gaucher disease; prenatal healthcare providers; carrier screening; practices; survey
6.  Genetic and Clinical Features of Progranulin-Associated Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration 
Archives of neurology  2011;68(4):488-497.
Objective
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
GRN+ FTLD-TDP differs in key features from GRN− FTLD-TDP.
doi:10.1001/archneurol.2011.53
PMCID: PMC3160280  PMID: 21482928
7.  Genetic Testing and Parkinson Disease: Assessment of Patient Knowledge, Attitudes, and Interest 
Journal of Genetic Counseling  2011;20(4):384-395.
The most common genetic contributor to late-onset Parkinson disease (PD) is the LRRK2 gene. In order to effectively integrate LRRK2 genetic testing into clinical practice, a strategy tailored to the PD population must be developed. We assessed 168 individuals with PD for baseline knowledge of genetics, perceived risk, and interest and opinions regarding genetic counseling and testing. Most participants felt that they were familiar with general genetics terms but overall knowledge levels were low, with an average score of 55%. The majority of participants thought it was likely they inherited a PD gene (72%), believed genetic testing for PD would be useful (86%), and were interested in genetic testing (59%) and genetic counseling (56%). However, only a few participants had heard of any genetic tests for PD (29%) or LRRK2 (10%). There appears to be a significant level of interest in genetics and genetic testing within the PD population, but a considerable deficit in genetics knowledge and an over-estimation of risk. Genetic education and counseling tools to address these needs were developed to provide patients with the ability to make informed and knowledgeable genetic testing decisions.
doi:10.1007/s10897-011-9362-0
PMCID: PMC3280083  PMID: 21476119
Parkinson disease; Genetic testing; Genetic knowledge; Attitudes; Perceived risk
8.  The Spectrum of Mutations in Progranulin 
Archives of neurology  2010;67(2):161-170.
Background
Mutation in the progranulin gene (GRN) can cause frontotemporal dementia (FTD). However, it is unclear whether some rare FTD-related GRN variants are pathogenic and whether neurodegenerative disorders other than FTD can also be caused by GRN mutations.
Objectives
To delineate the range of clinical presentations associated with GRN mutations and to define pathogenic candidacy of rare GRN variants.
Design
Case-control study.
Setting
Clinical and neuropathology dementia research studies at 8 academic centers.
Participants
Four hundred thirty-four patients with FTD, including primary progressive aphasia, semantic dementia, FTD/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), FTD/motor neuron disease, corticobasal syndrome/corticobasal degeneration, progressive supranuclear palsy, Pick disease, dementia lacking distinctive histopathology, and pathologically confirmed cases of frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitin-positive inclusions (FTLD-U); and 111 non-FTD cases (controls) in which TDP-43 deposits were a prominent neuropathological feature, including subjects with ALS, Guam ALS and/or parkinsonism dementia complex, Guam dementia, Alzheimer disease, multiple system atrophy, and argyrophilic grain disease.
Main Outcome Measures
Variants detected on sequencing of all 13 GRN exons and at least 80 base pairs of flanking introns, and their pathogenic candidacy determined by in silico and ex vivo splicing assays.
Results
We identified 58 genetic variants that included 26 previously unknown changes. Twenty-four variants appeared to be pathogenic, including 8 novel mutations. The frequency of GRN mutations was 6.9% (30 of 434) of all FTD-spectrum cases, 21.4% (9 of 42) of cases with a pathological diagnosis of FTLD-U, 16.0% (28 of 175) of FTD-spectrum cases with a family history of a similar neurodegenerative disease, and 56.2% (9 of 16) of cases of FTLD-U with a family history.
Conclusions
Pathogenic mutations were found only in FTD-spectrum cases and not in other related neurodegenerative diseases. Haploinsufficiency of GRN is the predominant mechanism leading to FTD.
doi:10.1001/archneurol.2009.328
PMCID: PMC2901991  PMID: 20142524
9.  A90V TDP-43 Variant Results in the Aberrant Localization of TDP-43 In Vitro 
FEBS letters  2008;582(15):2252-2256.
TAR DNA-binding protein-43 (TDP-43) is a highly conserved, ubiquitously expressed nuclear protein that was recently identified as the disease protein in frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitin positive inclusions (FTLD-U) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Pathogenic TDP-43 gene (TARDBP) mutations have been identified in familial ALS kindreds, and here we report a TARDBP variant (A90V) in a FTLD/ALS patient with a family history of dementia. Significantly, A90V is located between the bipartite nuclear localization signal sequence of TDP-43 and the in vitro expression of TDP-43-A90V led to its sequestration with endogenous TDP-43 as insoluble cytoplasmic aggregates. Thus, A90V may be a genetic risk factor for FTLD/ALS because it predisposes nuclear TDP-43 to redistribute to the cytoplasm and form pathological aggregates.
doi:10.1016/j.febslet.2008.05.024
PMCID: PMC2478749  PMID: 18505686

Results 1-9 (9)