Increasing evidence suggests that defective RNA processing contributes to the development of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This may be especially true for ALS caused by a repeat expansion in C9orf72 (c9ALS), in which the accumulation of RNA foci and dipeptide-repeat proteins are expected to modify RNA metabolism. We report extensive alternative splicing (AS) and alternative polyadenylation (APA) defects in the cerebellum of c9ALS cases (8,224 AS, 1,437 APA), including changes in ALS-associated genes (e.g. ATXN2 and FUS), and cases of sporadic ALS (sALS; 2,229 AS, 716 APA). Furthermore, hnRNPH and other RNA-binding proteins are predicted as potential regulators of cassette exon AS events for both c9ALS and sALS. Co-expression and gene-association network analyses of gene expression and AS data revealed divergent pathways associated with c9ALS and sALS.
The major genetic cause of frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a G4C2 repeat expansion in C9ORF72. Efforts to combat neurodegeneration associated with “c9FTD/ALS” are hindered by a lack of animal models recapitulating disease features. We developed a mouse model to mimic both neuropathological and clinical c9FTD/ALS phenotypes. We expressed (G4C2)66 throughout the murine central nervous system by means of somatic brain transgenesis mediated by adeno-associated virus. Brains of 6-month-old mice contained nuclear RNA foci, inclusions of poly(Gly-Pro), poly(Gly-Ala), and poly(Gly-Arg) dipeptide repeat proteins, as well as TDP-43 pathology. These mouse brains also exhibited cortical neuron and cerebellar Purkinje cell loss, astrogliosis, and decreased weight. (G4C2)66 mice also developed behavioral abnormalities similar to clinical symptoms of c9FTD/ALS patients, including hyperactivity, anxiety, antisocial behavior, and motor deficits.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a neurodegeneration characterized by the abnormal accumulation of hyperphosphorylated tau protein within the brain. Like many other neurodegenerative conditions, at present, CTE can only be definitively diagnosed by post-mortem examination of brain tissue. As the first part of a series of consensus panels funded by the NINDS/NIBIB to define the neuropathological criteria for CTE, preliminary neuropathological criteria were used by 7 neuropathologists to blindly evaluate 25 cases of various tauopathies, including CTE, Alzheimer’s disease, progressive supranuclear palsy, argyrophilic grain disease, corticobasal degeneration, primary age-related tauopathy, and parkinsonism dementia complex of Guam. The results demonstrated that there was good agreement among the neuropathologists who reviewed the cases (Cohen’s kappa, 0.67) and even better agreement between reviewers and the diagnosis of CTE (Cohen’s kappa, 0.78). Based on these results, the panel defined the pathognomonic lesion of CTE as an accumulation of abnormal hyperphosphorylated tau (p-tau) in neurons and astroglia distributed around small blood vessels at the depths of cortical sulci and in an irregular pattern. The group also defined supportive but non-specific p-tau-immunoreactive features of CTE as: pretangles and NFTs affecting superficial layers (layers II–III) of cerebral cortex; pretangles, NFTs or extracellular tangles in CA2 and pretangles and proximal dendritic swellings in CA4 of the hippocampus; neuronal and astrocytic aggregates in subcortical nuclei; thorn-shaped astrocytes at the glial limitans of the subpial and periventricular regions; and large grain-like and dot-like structures. Supportive non-p-tau pathologies include TDP-43 immunoreactive neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions and dot-like structures in the hippocampus, anteromedial temporal cortex and amygdala. The panel also recommended a minimum blocking and staining scheme for pathological evaluation and made recommendations for future study. This study provides the first step towards the development of validated neuropathological criteria for CTE and will pave the way towards future clinical and mechanistic studies.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00401-015-1515-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy; Traumatic brain injury; Tauopathy; Brain trauma; Neurodegenerative disorders
Clinical and neuropathological characteristics associated with G4C2 repeat expansions in chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72), the most common genetic cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia, are highly variable. To gain insight on the molecular basis for the heterogeneity among C9ORF72 mutation carriers, we evaluated associations between features of disease and levels of two abundantly expressed “c9RAN proteins” produced by repeat-associated non-ATG (RAN) translation of the expanded repeat. For these studies, we took a departure from traditional immunohistochemical approaches and instead employed immunoassays to quantitatively measure poly(GP) and poly(GA) levels in cerebellum, frontal cortex, motor cortex, and/or hippocampus from 55 C9ORF72 mutation carriers [12 patients with ALS, 24 with frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) and 19 with FTLD with motor neuron disease (FTLD-MND)]. We additionally investigated associations between levels of poly(GP) or poly(GA) and cognitive impairment in 15 C9ORF72 ALS patients for whom neuropsychological data were available. Among the neuroanatomical regions investigated, poly(GP) levels were highest in the cerebellum. In this same region, associations between poly(GP) and both neuropathological and clinical features were detected. Specifically, cerebellar poly(GP) levels were significantly lower in patients with ALS compared to patients with FTLD or FTLD-MND. Furthermore, cerebellar poly(GP) associated with cognitive score in our cohort of 15 patients. In the cerebellum, poly(GA) levels similarly trended lower in the ALS subgroup compared to FTLD or FTLD-MND subgroups, but no association between cerebellar poly(GA) and cognitive score was detected. Both cerebellar poly(GP) and poly(GA) associated with C9ORF72 variant 3 mRNA expression, but not variant 1 expression, repeat size, disease onset, or survival after onset. Overall, these data indicate that cerebellar abnormalities, as evidenced by poly(GP) accumulation, associate with neuropathological and clinical phenotypes, in particular cognitive impairment, of C9ORF72 mutation carriers.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00401-015-1474-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; C9ORF72 repeat expansion; c9RAN proteins; Cognition; Dipeptide repeat proteins; Frontotemporal dementia; Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Neuropathological diagnosis; Repeat-associated non-ATG translation
prion disease; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; PrP; TDP-43; variably protease-sensitive prionopathy
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.
C9ORF72; TMEM106B; frontotemporal dementia; motor neuron disease; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; disease modifier
Many people with REM sleep behavior disorder have an underlying synucleinopathy, the most common of which is Lewy body disease. Identifying additional abnormal clinical features may help in identifying those at greater risk of evolving to a more severe syndrome. As gait disorders are common in the synucleinopathies, early abnormalities in gait in those with REM sleep behavior disorder could help in identifying those at increased risk of developing overt parkinsonism and/or cognitive impairment.
We identified 42 probable REM sleep behavior disorder subjects and 492 controls using the Mayo Sleep Questionnaire and assessed gait velocity, cadence and stride dynamics with an automated gait analysis system.
Cases and controls were similar in age (79.9 ± 4.7 & 80.1 ± 4.7, p= 0.74), UPDRS score (3.3 ± 5.5 & 1.9 ± 4.1, p=0.21) and Mini-Mental State Examination scores (27.2 ± 1.9 & 27.7 ± 1.6, p=0.10). A diagnosis of probable REM sleep behavior disorder was associated with decreased velocity (−7.9 cm/sec, 95%CI −13.8 to −2.0, p<0.01), cadence (−4.4 steps/min, 95%CI −7.6 to −1.3, p<0.01), and significantly increased double limb support variability (30%, 95%CI 6 – 60, p=0.01), greater stride time variability (29%, 95%CI 2 – 63, p=0.03) and swing time variability (46%, 95%CI 15 – 84, p<0.01).
Probable REM sleep behavior disorder is associated with subtle gait changes prior to overt clinical parkinsonism. Diagnosis of probable REM sleep behavior disorder supplemented by gait analysis may help as a screening tool for disorders of α-synuclein.
REM Sleep Behavior Disorder; gait; gait variability
Expanded hexanucleotide repeats in C9ORF72 are a common genetic cause of frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Repeat expansions have also been detected infrequently in other disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinsonian disorders.
To assess the incidence of the expanded C9ORF72 repeat in cases of depressive pseudodementia.
An immunohistochemical screen of autopsied brains collected between 1998 and 2013.
Brain bank at Mayo Clinic Florida, a large tertiary care research institution.
Thirty one neuropathologically normal individuals (no atrophy, neuronal loss, or gliosis beyond what would be expected for age) with an antemortem clinical history or diagnosis of depression and/or dementia.
Main Outcome Measures
Presence of the hexanucleotide repeat was established using immunohistochemistry with a highly disease-specific antibody (C9RANT), and was further validated in carriers using repeat-primed polymerase chain reaction and Southern blotting.
Of the 31 cases studied, 2 (6.45%) individuals harbored the C9ORF72 repeat expansion. Both patients were men with refractory depression. One patient experienced drug-induced Parkinsonism and sudden-onset dementia, while the other patient had a more insidious disease course suspected to be Alzheimer’s disease. Clinical and neuropathologic features are described.
Conclusions and Relevance
This report expands the range of clinicopathologic presentations of C9ORF72 expanded hexanucleotide repeat to include psychiatric disorders such as depressive pseudodementia.
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.
Hippocampus; C9ORF72; memory; neuropathology; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; C9RANT
Mutations in profilin-1 (PFN1) have recently been
identified in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Because of
the considerable overlap between ALS and the common subtype of
frontotemporal dementia, which is characterized by transactive response
DNA-binding protein 43 pathology (FTLD-TDP), we tested cohorts of ALS and
FTLD-TDP patients for PFN1 mutations.
DNA was obtained from 342 ALS patients and 141 FTLD-TDP patients at
our outpatient clinic and brain bank for neurodegenerative diseases at the
Mayo Clinic Florida, Jacksonville, USA. We screened these patients for
mutations in coding regions of PFN1 by Sanger sequencing.
Subsequently, we used TaqMan genotyping assays to investigate the identified
variant in 1167 control subjects.
One variant, p.E117G, was detected in 1 ALS patient, 1 FTLD-TDP
patient, and 2 control subjects. The mutation frequency of patients versus
control subjects was not significantly different (p-value
= 0.36). Moreover, PFN1 and TDP-43 staining of autopsy material did
not differ between patients with or without this variant.
The p.E117G variant appears to represent a benign polymorphism.
PFN1 mutations, in general, are rare in ALS and
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; frontotemporal dementia; profilin-1; TDP-43; genetics
The occurrence of repeat-associated non-ATG (RAN) translation, an atypical form of translation of expanded repeats that results in the synthesis of homopolymeric expansion proteins, is becoming more widely appreciated among microsatellite expansion disorders. Such disorders include amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia caused by a hexanucleotide repeat expansion in the C9ORF72 gene (c9FTD/ALS). We and others have recently shown that this bidirectionally transcribed repeat is RAN translated, and the “c9RAN proteins” thusly produced form neuronal inclusions throughout the central nervous system of c9FTD/ALS patients. Nonetheless, the potential contribution of c9RAN proteins to disease pathogenesis remains poorly understood. In the present study, we demonstrate that poly(GA) c9RAN proteins are neurotoxic and may be implicated in the neurodegenerative processes of c9FTD/ALS. Specifically, we show that expression of poly(GA) proteins in cultured cells and primary neurons leads to the formation of soluble and insoluble high molecular weight species, as well as inclusions composed of filaments similar to those observed in c9FTD/ALS brain tissues. The expression of poly(GA) proteins is accompanied by caspase-3 activation, impaired neurite outgrowth, inhibition of proteasome activity, and evidence of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress. Of importance, ER stress inhibitors, salubrinal and TUDCA, provide protection against poly(GA)-induced toxicity. Taken together, our data provide compelling evidence towards establishing RAN translation as a pathogenic mechanism of c9FTD/ALS, and suggest that targeting the ER using small molecules may be a promising therapeutic approach for these devastating diseases.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00401-014-1336-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; C9ORF72; Expanded repeat; Frontotemporal dementia; Repeat-associated non-ATG translation; Poly(GA) proteins; Proteasome activity; ER stress
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.
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are devastating neurodegenerative disorders with clinical, genetic, and neuropathological overlap. Hexanucleotide (GGGGCC) repeat expansions in a non-coding region of C9ORF72 are the major genetic cause of FTD and ALS (c9FTD/ALS). The RNA structure of GGGGCC repeats renders these transcripts susceptible to an unconventional mechanism of translation – repeat-associated non-ATG (RAN) translation. Antibodies generated against putative GGGGCC repeat RAN translated peptides (anti-C9RANT) detected high molecular weight, insoluble material in brain homogenates, and neuronal inclusions throughout the central nervous system of c9FTD/ALS cases. C9RANT immunoreactivity was not found in other neurodegenerative diseases, including CAG repeat disorders, or in peripheral tissues of c9FTD/ALS. The specificity of C9RANT for c9FTD/ALS is a potential biomarker for this most common cause of FTD and ALS. These findings have significant implications for treatment strategies directed at RAN translated peptides and their aggregation, and the RNA structures necessary for their production.
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.
frontotemporal lobar degeneration; C9ORF72; ubiquitin; p62; ubiquilin-2; tau
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are devastating neurodegenerative disorders with clinical, genetic, and neuropathological overlap. A hexanucleotide (GGGGCC) repeat expansion in a non-coding region of C9ORF72 is the major genetic cause of both diseases. The mechanisms by which this repeat expansion causes “c9FTD/ALS” are not definitively known, but RNA-mediated toxicity is a likely culprit. RNA transcripts of the expanded GGGGCC repeat form nuclear foci in c9FTD/ALS, and also undergo repeat-associated non-ATG (RAN) translation resulting in the production of three aggregation-prone proteins. The goal of this study was to examine whether antisense transcripts resulting from bidirectional transcription of the expanded repeat behave in a similar manner. We show that ectopic expression of (CCCCGG)66 in cultured cells results in foci formation. Using novel polyclonal antibodies for the detection of possible (CCCCGG)exp RAN proteins [poly(PR), poly(GP) and poly(PA)], we validated that (CCCCGG)66 is also subject to RAN translation in transfected cells. Of importance, foci composed of antisense transcripts are observed in the frontal cortex, spinal cord and cerebellum of c9FTD/ALS cases, and neuronal inclusions of poly(PR), poly(GP) and poly(PA) are present in various brain tissues in c9FTD/ALS, but not in other neurodegenerative diseases, including CAG repeat disorders. Of note, RNA foci and poly(GP) inclusions infrequently co-occur in the same cell, suggesting these events represent two distinct ways in which the C9ORF72 repeat expansion may evoke neurotoxic effects. These findings provide mechanistic insight into the pathogenesis of c9FTD/ALS, and have significant implications for therapeutic strategies.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00401-013-1192-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Bidirectional transcription; C9ORF72; Expanded repeat; Frontotemporal dementia; Repeat-associated non-ATG translation; RNA foci
To validate a questionnaire focused on REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) among participants in an aging and dementia cohort.
RBD is a parasomnia that can develop in otherwise neurologically-normal adults as well as in those with a neurodegenerative disease. Confirmation of RBD requires polysomnography (PSG). A simple screening measure for RBD would be desirable for clinical and research purposes.
We had previously developed the Mayo Sleep Questionnaire (MSQ), a 16 item measure, to screen for the presence of RBD and other sleep disorders. We assessed the validity of the MSQ by comparing the responses of patients’ bed partners with the findings on PSG. All subjects recruited in the Mayo Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Mayo Clinic Rochester and Mayo Clinic Jacksonville from 1/00 to 7/08 who had also undergone a PSG were the focus of this analysis.
The study sample was comprised of 176 subjects [150 male; median age 71 years (range 39–90)], with the following clinical diagnoses: normal (n=8), mild cognitive impairment (n=44), Alzheimer’s disease (n=23), dementia with Lewy bodies (n=74), as well as other dementia and/or parkinsonian syndromes (n=27). The core question on recurrent dream enactment behavior yielded a sensitivity (SN) of 98% and specificity (SP) of 74% for the diagnosis of RBD. The profile of responses on four additional subquestions on RBD and one on obstructive sleep apnea improved specificity.
These data suggest that among aged subjects with cognitive impairment and/or parkinsonism, the MSQ has adequate SN and SP for the diagnosis of RBD. The utility of this scale in other patient populations will require further study.
sleep disorders; parasomnias; dementia; Alzheimer’s disease; dementia with Lewy bodies; parkinsonism