Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) may appear to be familial or sporadic, with recognized dominant and recessive inheritance in a proportion of cases. Sporadic ALS may be caused by rare homozygous recessive mutations. We studied patients and controls from the UK and a multinational pooled analysis of GWAS data on homozygosity in ALS to determine any potential recessive variant leading to the disease. 620 ALS and 5169 controls were studied in the UK cohort. A total of 7646 homozygosity segments with length >2Mb were identified, and 3568 rare segments remained after filtering “common” segments. The mean total of the autosomal genome with homozygosity segments was longer in ALS than in controls (unfiltered segments, p=0.05). 2017 ALS and 6918 controls were studied in the pooled analysis. There were more regions of homozygosity segments per case (p=1×10−5), a greater proportion of cases harboured homozygosity (p=2×10−5), a longer average length of segment (p=1×10−5), a longer total genome coverage (p=1×10−5), and a higher rate of these segments overlapped with RefSeq gene regions (p=1×10−5), in ALS patients than controls. Positive associations were found in three regions. The most significant was in the chromosome 21 SOD1 region, and also chromosome 1 2.9Mb to 4.8Mb, and chromosome 5 in the 65Mb region. There are more than twenty potential genes in these regions. These findings point to further possible rare recessive genetic causes of ALS which are not identified as common variants in GWAS.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; homozygosity; genetics; recessive
The common variant rs12608932, located within an intron of UNC13A gene on chromosome 19p13.3, has been suggested to influence susceptibility to ALS, as well as survival, in patients of north European descent. To examine this possibility further, we evaluated the association of rs12608932 with susceptibility and survival in a population-based cohort of 500 Italian ALS patients and 1,457 Italian control samples. Although rs12608932 was not associated to ALS susceptibility in our series (p=0.124), it was significantly associated with survival under the recessive model (median survival for AA/AC genotypes = 3.5 years [IQR 2.2–6.4]; CC = 2.5 years [IQR 1.6–4.2]; p=0.017). Furthermore, rs12608932 genotype remained an independent prognostic factor in Cox multivariable analysis adjusting for other factors known to influence survival (p=0.023). Overall, minor allele carrier status of rs12608932 was strongly associated with an ~1-year reduction of survival in ALS patients, making it a significant determinant of phenotype variation. The identification of UNC13A as a modifier of prognosis among sporadic ALS patients potentially provides a new therapeutic target aimed at slowing disease progression.
To assess the frequency and clinical characteristics of patients with mutations of major amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) genes in a prospectively ascertained, population-based epidemiologic series of cases.
The study population includes all ALS cases diagnosed in Piemonte, Italy, from January 2007 to June 2011. Mutations of SOD1, TARDBP, ANG, FUS, OPTN, and C9ORF72 have been assessed.
Out of the 475 patients included in the study, 51 (10.7%) carried a mutation of an ALS-related gene (C9ORF72, 32; SOD1, 10; TARDBP, 7; FUS, 1; OPTN, 1; ANG, none). A positive family history for ALS or frontotemporal dementia (FTD) was found in 46 (9.7%) patients. Thirty-one (67.4%) of the 46 familial cases and 20 (4.7%) of the 429 sporadic cases had a genetic mutation. According to logistic regression modeling, besides a positive family history for ALS or FTD, the chance to carry a genetic mutation was related to the presence of comorbid FTD (odds ratio 3.5; p = 0.001), and age at onset ≤54 years (odds ratio 1.79; p = 0.012).
We have found that ∼11% of patients with ALS carry a genetic mutation, with C9ORF72 being the commonest genetic alteration. Comorbid FTD or a young age at onset are strong indicators of a possible genetic origin of the disease.
We recently reported that mutations in the VCP gene are a cause of 1–2% of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) cases, but their role in the pathogenesis of sporadic ALS is unclear. We undertook mutational screening of VCP in 701 sporadic ALS cases. Three pathogenic variants (p.Arg159Cys, p.Asn387Thr, and p.R662C) were found in three US cases, each of whom presented with progressive upper and lower motor neuron signs consistent with definite ALS by El Escorial diagnostic criteria. Our data indicate that VCP mutations may underlie apparently sporadic ALS, but account for less than 1% of this form of disease.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; valosin-containing protein; mutations; sporadic disease
It has been recently reported that a large proportion of patients with familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (familial ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) are associated with a hexanucleotide (GGGGCC) repeat expansion in the first intron of C9ORF72. We have assessed 1,757 Italian sporadic ALS cases, 133 from Sardinia, 101 from Sicily, and 1,523 from mainland Italy. Sixty (3.7%) of 1,624 mainland Italians and Sicilians and 9 (6.8%) of the 133 Sardinian sporadic ALS cases carried the pathogenic repeat expansion. None of the 619 regionally-matched control samples (1,238 chromosomes) carried the expansion. Twenty-five cases (36.2%) had behavioral FTD in addition to ALS. FTD or unspecified dementia was also detected in 19 pedigrees (27.5%) in first-degree relatives of ALS patients. Cases carrying the C9ORF72 hexanucleotide expansion survived one year less than cases who did not carry this mutation. In conclusion, we found that C9ORF72 hexanucloetide repeat expansions represents a sizeable proportion of apparent sporadic ALS in the Italian and Sardinian population, representing by far the commonest mutation in Italy and the second more common in Sardinia.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; C9ORF72; frontotemporal dementia; survival
A hexanucleotide repeat expansion in the C9ORF72 gene has recently been shown to cause a large proportion of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and fronto-temporal dementia (FTD).
We screened 4,448 patients diagnosed with ALS and 1,425 patients diagnosed with FTD drawn from diverse populations for the hexanucleotide expansion using a repeat-primed PCR assay. ALS and FTD were diagnosed according to the El Escorial and Lund-Manchester criteria respectively. Familial status was based on self-reported family history of similar neurodegenerative diseases at the time of sample collection. Haplotype data of 262 patients carrying the expansion were compared with the known Finnish founder risk haplotype across the chromosomal locus. Age-related penetrance was calculated by the Kaplan-Meier method using data from 603 individuals carrying the expansion.
The mutation was observed among 7·0% (n = 236 of 3,377) of Caucasians, 4·1% (n = 2 of 49) of African-Americans, and 8·3% (n = 6 of 72) of Hispanic individuals diagnosed with sporadic ALS, whereas the rate was 6·0% (n = 59 of 981) among Caucasians diagnosed with sporadic FTD. Among Asians, 5·0% (n = 1 of 20) of familial ALS and 66·6% (n = 2 of 3) of familial FTD cases carried the repeat expansion. In contrast, mutations were not observed among patients of Native American (n = 3 sporadic ALS), Indian (n = 31 sporadic ALS, n = 31 sporadic FTD), and Pacific Islander (n = 90 sporadic ALS) ethnicity. All patients with the repeat expansion carried, either partially or fully, the founder haplotype suggesting that the expansion occurred on a single occasion in the past (~1,500 years ago). The pathogenic expansion was non-penetrant below 35 years of age, increasing to 50·0% penetrance by 58 years of age, and was almost fully penetrant by 80 years of age.
We confirm that a common single Mendelian genetic lesion is implicated in a large proportion of sporadic and familial ALS and FTD. Testing for this pathogenic expansion will be important in the management and genetic counseling of patients with these fatal neurodegenerative diseases.
A large hexanucleotide (GGGGCC) repeat expansion in the first intron of C9ORF72, a gene located on chromosome 9p21, has been recently reported to be responsible for ∼40% of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases of European ancestry. The aim of the current article was to describe the phenotype of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases carrying the expansion by providing a detailed clinical description of affected cases from representative multi-generational kindreds, and by analysing the age of onset, gender ratio and survival in a large cohort of patients with familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. We collected DNA and analysed phenotype data for 141 index Italian familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases (21 of Sardinian ancestry) and 41 German index familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases. Pathogenic repeat expansions were detected in 45 (37.5%) patients from mainland Italy, 12 (57.1%) patients of Sardinian ancestry and nine (22.0%) of the 41 German index familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases. The disease was maternally transmitted in 27 (49.1%) pedigrees and paternally transmitted in 28 (50.9%) pedigrees (P = non-significant). On average, children developed disease 7.0 years earlier than their parents [children: 55.8 years (standard deviation 7.9), parents: 62.8 (standard deviation 10.9); P = 0.003]. Parental phenotype influenced the type of clinical symptoms manifested by the child: of the 13 cases where the affected parent had an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis–frontotemporal dementia or frontotemporal dementia, the affected child also developed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis–frontotemporal dementia in nine cases. When compared with patients carrying mutations of other amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-related genes, those with C9ORF72 expansion had commonly a bulbar onset (42.2% compared with 25.0% among non-C9ORF72 expansion cases, P = 0.03) and cognitive impairment (46.7% compared with 9.1% among non-C9ORF72 expansion cases, P = 0.0001). Median survival from symptom onset among cases carrying C9ORF72 repeat expansion was 3.2 years lower than that of patients carrying TARDBP mutations (5.0 years; 95% confidence interval: 3.6–7.2) and longer than those with FUS mutations (1.9 years; 95% confidence interval: 1.7–2.1). We conclude that C9ORF72 hexanucleotide repeat expansions were the most frequent mutation in our large cohort of patients with familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis of Italian, Sardinian and German ancestry. Together with mutation of SOD1, TARDBP and FUS, mutations of C9ORF72 account for ∼60% of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in Italy. Patients with C9ORF72 hexanucleotide repeat expansions present some phenotypic differences compared with patients with mutations of other genes or with unknown mutations, namely a high incidence of bulbar-onset disease and comorbidity with frontotemporal dementia. Their pedigrees typically display a high frequency of cases with pure frontotemporal dementia, widening the concept of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; familial ALS, C9ORF72 gene; phenotype–genotype correlation
We and others have recently reported an association between ALS and single nucleotide polymorphisms on chromosome 9p21 in several populations. Here we show that the associated haplotype is the same in all populations and that several families previously shown to have genetic linkage to this region also share this haplotype. The most parsimonious explanation of these data is that there is a single founder for this form of disease.
Genetics; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; frontotemporal dementia; Finland
We aimed to accurately estimate the frequency of a hexanucleotide repeat expansion in C9orf72 that has been associated with a large proportion of cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD).
We screened 4448 patients diagnosed with ALS (El Escorial criteria) and 1425 patients with FTD (Lund-Manchester criteria) from 17 regions worldwide for the GGGGCC hexanucleotide expansion using a repeat-primed PCR assay. We assessed familial disease status on the basis of self-reported family history of similar neurodegenerative diseases at the time of sample collection. We compared haplotype data for 262 patients carrying the expansion with the known Finnish founder risk haplotype across the chromosomal locus. We calculated age-related penetrance using the Kaplan-Meier method with data for 603 individuals with the expansion.
In patients with sporadic ALS, we identified the repeat expansion in 236 (7·0%) of 3377 white individuals from the USA, Europe, and Australia, two (4·1%) of 49 black individuals from the USA, and six (8·3%) of 72 Hispanic individuals from the USA. The mutation was present in 217 (39·3%) of 552 white individuals with familial ALS from Europe and the USA. 59 (6·0%) of 981 white Europeans with sporadic FTD had the mutation, as did 99 (24·8%) of 400 white Europeans with familial FTD. Data for other ethnic groups were sparse, but we identified one Asian patient with familial ALS (from 20 assessed) and two with familial FTD (from three assessed) who carried the mutation. The mutation was not carried by the three Native Americans or 360 patients from Asia or the Pacific Islands with sporadic ALS who were tested, or by 41 Asian patients with sporadic FTD. All patients with the repeat expansion had (partly or fully) the founder haplotype, suggesting a one-off expansion occurring about 1500 years ago. The pathogenic expansion was non-penetrant in individuals younger than 35 years, 50% penetrant by 58 years, and almost fully penetrant by 80 years.
A common Mendelian genetic lesion in C9orf72 is implicated in many cases of sporadic and familial ALS and FTD. Testing for this pathogenic expansion should be considered in the management and genetic counselling of patients with these fatal neurodegenerative diseases.
Full funding sources listed at end of paper (see Acknowledgments).
Mutations in the FUS gene have recently been described as a cause of familial ALS, but their role in the pathogenesis of sporadic ALS is unclear. We undertook mutational screening of all coding exons of FUS in 228 sporadic ALS cases, and, as previous reports suggest that exon 15 represents a mutational hotspot, we sequenced this exon in an additional 1,295 sporadic cases. Six variants in six different cases were found, indicating that FUS mutations can underlie apparently sporadic ALS, but account for less than 1% of this form of disease.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; sporadic disease; FUS; Italy; United States of America
We and others have recently reported an association between amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and single nucleotide polymorphisms on chromosome 9p21 in several populations. Here we show that the associated haplotype is the same in all populations and that several families previously shown to have genetic linkage to this region also share this haplotype. The most parsimonious explanation of these data are that there is a single founder for this form of disease.
Genetics; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Frontotemporal dementia; Finland
Using exome sequencing, we identified a p.R191Q amino acid change in the valosin-containing protein (VCP) gene in an Italian family with autosomal dominantly inherited amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Mutations in VCP have previously been identified in families with Inclusion Body Myopathy, Paget’s disease and Frontotemporal Dementia (IBMPFD). Screening of VCP in a cohort of 210 familial ALS cases and 78 autopsy-proven ALS cases identified four additional mutations including a p.R155H mutation in a pathologically-proven case of ALS. VCP protein is essential for maturation of ubiquitin-containing autophagosomes, and mutant VCP toxicity is partially mediated through its effect on TDP-43 protein, a major constituent of ubiquitin inclusions that neuropathologically characterize ALS. Our data broaden the phenotype of IBMPFD to include motor neuron degeneration, suggest that VCP mutations may account for ~1–2% of familial ALS, and represent the first evidence directly implicating defects in the ubiquitination/protein degradation pathway in motor neuron degeneration.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal progressive motor neuron disease, for which there are still no diagnostic/prognostic test and therapy. Specific molecular biomarkers are urgently needed to facilitate clinical studies and speed up the development of effective treatments.
We used a two-dimensional difference in gel electrophoresis approach to identify in easily accessible clinical samples, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), a panel of protein biomarkers that are closely associated with ALS. Validations and a longitudinal study were performed by immunoassays on a selected number of proteins. The same proteins were also measured in PBMC and spinal cord of a G93A SOD1 transgenic rat model. We identified combinations of protein biomarkers that can distinguish, with high discriminatory power, ALS patients from healthy controls (98%), and from patients with neurological disorders that may resemble ALS (91%), between two levels of disease severity (90%), and a number of translational biomarkers, that link responses between human and animal model. We demonstrated that TDP-43, cyclophilin A and ERp57 associate with disease progression in a longitudinal study. Moreover, the protein profile changes detected in peripheral blood mononuclear cells of ALS patients are suggestive of possible intracellular pathogenic mechanisms such as endoplasmic reticulum stress, nitrative stress, disturbances in redox regulation and RNA processing.
Our results indicate that PBMC multiprotein biomarkers could contribute to determine amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosis, differential diagnosis, disease severity and progression, and may help to elucidate pathogenic mechanisms.
Recently, fused in sarcoma/translated in liposarcoma (FUS/TLS) gene, located on chromosome 16p11.2, has been identified as a disease gene in familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (FALS). We have analyzed FUS/TLS in a cohort of 52 index cases from seven Italian regions with non-SOD1 and non-TARDBP FALS. We identified a heterozygous c.G1542C missense mutation in a family of northern Italian origin, and a heterozygous c.C1574T missense mutation in a family of Sicilian origin. Both variants are located in exon 15 encoding the RNA-recognition motif, and result in a substitution of an arginine with a serine in position 514 (p.R514S) and substitution of a proline with a leucine at position 525 (p.P525L) respectively. Overall, the two mutations accounted for 3.8% of 52 non-SOD1 and non-TDP43 index cases of FALS. The clinical phenotype was similar within each of the families, with a predominantly upper limb onset in the family carrying the p.R514S mutation and bulbar onset, with very young age and a rapid course in the family carrying the p.P525L mutation.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; genetics; FUS gene; family pedigrees
The cause of sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is largely unknown, but genetic factors are thought to play a significant role in determining susceptibility to motor neuron degeneration. To identify genetic variants altering risk of ALS, we undertook a two-stage genome-wide association study (GWAS): we followed our initial GWAS of 545 066 SNPs in 553 individuals with ALS and 2338 controls by testing the 7600 most associated SNPs from the first stage in three independent cohorts consisting of 2160 cases and 3008 controls. None of the SNPs selected for replication exceeded the Bonferroni threshold for significance. The two most significantly associated SNPs, rs2708909 and rs2708851 [odds ratio (OR) = 1.17 and 1.18, and P-values = 6.98 × 10−7 and 1.16 × 10−6], were located on chromosome 7p13.3 within a 175 kb linkage disequilibrium block containing the SUNC1, HUS1 and C7orf57 genes. These associations did not achieve genome-wide significance in the original cohort and failed to replicate in an additional independent cohort of 989 US cases and 327 controls (OR = 1.18 and 1.19, P-values = 0.08 and 0.06, respectively). Thus, we chose to cautiously interpret our data as hypothesis-generating requiring additional confirmation, especially as all previously reported loci for ALS have failed to replicate successfully. Indeed, the three loci (FGGY, ITPR2 and DPP6) identified in previous GWAS of sporadic ALS were not significantly associated with disease in our study. Our findings suggest that ALS is more genetically and clinically heterogeneous than previously recognized. Genotype data from our study have been made available online to facilitate such future endeavors.