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1.  ABCA7 loss-of-function variants, expression, and neurologic disease risk 
Neurology: Genetics  2017;3(1):e126.
To investigate and characterize putative “loss-of-function” (LOF) adenosine triphosphate–binding cassette, subfamily A member 7 (ABCA7) mutations reported to associate with Alzheimer disease (AD) risk.
We genotyped 6 previously reported ABCA7 putative LOF variants in 1,465 participants with AD, 381 participants with other neuropathologies (non-AD), and 1,043 controls and assessed the overall mutational burden for association with different diagnosis groups. We measured brain ABCA7 protein and messenger RNA (mRNA) levels using Western blot and quantitative PCR, respectively, in 11 carriers of the 3 most common variants, and sequenced all 47 ABCA7 exons in these participants to screen for other coding variants.
At least one of the investigated variants was identified in 45 participants with late-onset Alzheimer disease, 12 participants with other neuropathologies, and 11 elderly controls. Association analysis revealed a significantly higher burden of these variants in participants with AD (p = 5.00E-04) and those with other neuropathologies (p = 8.60E-03) when compared with controls. Concurrent analysis of brain ABCA7 mRNA and protein revealed lower protein but not mRNA in p.L1403fs carriers, lower mRNA but not protein in p.E709fs carriers, and additional deleterious mutations in some c.5570+5G>C carriers.
Our results suggest that LOF may not be a common mechanism for these ABCA7 variants and expand the list of neurologic diseases enriched for them.
PMCID: PMC5217615  PMID: 28097223
2.  Autosomal dominant Parkinson’s disease caused by SNCA duplications 
Parkinsonism & related disorders  2015;22(Suppl 1):S1-S6.
The discovery in 1997 that mutations in the SNCA gene cause Parkinson’s disease (PD) greatly advanced our understanding of this illness. There are pathogenic missense mutations and multiplication mutations in SNCA. Thus, not only a mutant protein, but also an increased dose of wild-type protein can produce autosomal dominant parkinsonism. We review the literature on SNCA duplications and focus on pathologically-confirmed cases. We also report a newly-identified American family with SNCA duplication whose proband was autopsied. We found that over half of the reported cases with SNCA duplication had early-onset parkinsonism and non-motor features, such as dysautonomia, rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (RBD), hallucinations (usually visual) and cognitive deficits leading to dementia. Only a few cases have presented with typical features of PD. Our case presented with depression and RBD that preceded parkinsonism, and dysautonomia that led to an initial diagnosis of multiple system atrophy. Dementia and visual hallucinations followed. Our patient and the other reported cases with SNCA duplications had widespread cortical Lewy pathology. Neuronal loss in the hippocampal cornu ammonis 2/3 regions were seen in about half of the autopsied SNCA duplication cases. Similar pathology was also observed in SNCA missense mutation and triplication carriers.
PMCID: PMC4820832  PMID: 26350119
Parkinson’s disease; alpha-synuclein; SNCA; duplication; pathology
3.  Plasma sphingolipid changes with autopsy-confirmed Lewy Body or Alzheimer’s pathology 
The clinical and pathological phenotypes of Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) often overlap. We examined whether plasma lipids differed among individuals with autopsy-confirmed Lewy Body pathology or AD pathology.
We identified four groups with available plasma two years prior to death: high (n=12) and intermediate likelihood DLB (n=14) based on the third report of the DLB consortium; dementia with Alzheimer’s pathology (AD; n=18); and cognitively normal with normal aging pathology (n=21). Lipids were measured using ESI/MS/MS.
There were overall group differences in plasma ceramides C16:0, C18:1, C20:0 and C24:1 and monohexosylceramides C18:1 and C24:1. These lipids did not differ between the high likelihood DLB and AD groups, but both groups had higher levels than normals. Plasma fatty acid levels did not differ by group.
Plasma ceramides and monohexosylceramides are elevated in people with dementia with either high likelihood DLB or AD pathology.
PMCID: PMC4852484  PMID: 27152320
Alzheimer’s disease; Lewy body; Autopsy; Lipids; Ceramide
4.  Aging-related tau astrogliopathy (ARTAG): harmonized evaluation strategy 
Kovacs, Gabor G. | Ferrer, Isidro | Grinberg, Lea T. | Alafuzoff, Irina | Attems, Johannes | Budka, Herbert | Cairns, Nigel J. | Crary, John F. | Duyckaerts, Charles | Ghetti, Bernardino | Halliday, Glenda M. | Ironside, James W. | Love, Seth | Mackenzie, Ian R. | Munoz, David G. | Murray, Melissa E. | Nelson, Peter T. | Takahashi, Hitoshi | Trojanowski, John Q. | Ansorge, Olaf | Arzberger, Thomas | Baborie, Atik | Beach, Thomas G. | Bieniek, Kevin F. | Bigio, Eileen H. | Bodi, Istvan | Dugger, Brittany N. | Feany, Mel | Gelpi, Ellen | Gentleman, Stephen M. | Giaccone, Giorgio | Hatanpaa, Kimmo J. | Heale, Richard | Hof, Patrick R. | Hofer, Monika | Hortobágyi, Tibor | Jellinger, Kurt | Jicha, Gregory A. | Ince, Paul | Kofler, Julia | Kövari, Enikö | Kril, Jillian J. | Mann, David M. | Matej, Radoslav | McKee, Ann C. | McLean, Catriona | Milenkovic, Ivan | Montine, Thomas J. | Murayama, Shigeo | Lee, Edward B. | Rahimi, Jasmin | Rodriguez, Roberta D. | Rozemüller, Annemieke | Schneider, Julie A. | Schultz, Christian | Seeley, William | Seilhean, Danielle | Smith, Colin | Tagliavini, Fabrizio | Takao, Masaki | Thal, Dietmar Rudolf | Toledo, Jon B. | Tolnay, Markus | Troncoso, Juan C. | Vinters, Harry V. | Weis, Serge | Wharton, Stephen B. | White, Charles L. | Wisniewski, Thomas | Woulfe, John M. | Yamada, Masahito | Dickson, Dennis W.
Acta neuropathologica  2015;131(1):87-102.
Pathological accumulation of abnormally phosphorylated tau protein in astrocytes is a frequent, but poorly characterized feature of the aging brain. Its etiology is uncertain, but its presence is sufficiently ubiquitous to merit further characterization and classification, which may stimulate clinicopathological studies and research into its pathobiology. This paper aims to harmonize evaluation and nomenclature of aging-related tau astrogliopathy (ARTAG), a term that refers to a morphological spectrum of astroglial pathology detected by tau immunohistochemistry, especially with phosphorylation-dependent and 4R isoform-specific antibodies. ARTAG occurs mainly, but not exclusively, in individuals over 60 years of age. Tau-immunoreactive astrocytes in ARTAG include thorn-shaped astrocytes at the glia limitans and in white matter, as well as solitary or clustered astrocytes with perinuclear cytoplasmic tau immunoreactivity that extends into the astroglial processes as fine fibrillar or granular immunopositivity, typically in gray matter. Various forms of ARTAG may coexist in the same brain and might reflect different pathogenic processes. Based on morphology and anatomical distribution, ARTAG can be distinguished from primary tauopathies, but may be concurrent with primary tauopathies or other disorders. We recommend four steps for evaluation of ARTAG: (1) identification of five types based on the location of either morphologies of tau astrogliopathy: subpial, subependymal, perivascular, white matter, gray matter; (2) documentation of the regional involvement: medial temporal lobe, lobar (frontal, parietal, occipital, lateral temporal), subcortical, brainstem; (3) documentation of the severity of tau astrogliopathy; and (4) description of subregional involvement. Some types of ARTAG may underlie neurological symptoms; however, the clinical significance of ARTAG is currently uncertain and awaits further studies. The goal of this proposal is to raise awareness of astroglial tau pathology in the aged brain, facilitating communication among neuropathologists and researchers, and informing interpretation of clinical biomarkers and imaging studies that focus on tau-related indicators.
PMCID: PMC4879001  PMID: 26659578
Aging; ARTAG; Tau astrogliopathy; Tau
5.  Genetic disorders with tau pathology: a review of the literature and report of two patients with tauopathy and positive family histories 
Neuro-degenerative diseases  2015;16(0):12-21.
Tauopathies are a group of neurodegenerative disorders characterized by the pathologic accumulation of hyperphosphorylated and insoluble tau protein within neurons and glia. Although most cases are sporadic, hereditary tauopathies have also been reported.
In this article, we review genetic disorders in which tau pathology has been reported and present two novel families with primary tauopathies. Mutations in the microtubule-associated protein tau gene (MAPT) cause a small subset of primary tauopathies. Mutations in 21 other genes and a 18q deletion syndrome have also been reported to be associated with tau pathology reminiscent of Alzheimer’s disease, corticobasal degeneration, progressive supranuclear palsy, argyrophilic grain disease, or Pick’s disease. In eight of the 21 genes, tau pathology was only seen in cases with some “specific” mutations. In the remaining genes, tau pathology, often in the form of Alzheimer-type neurofibrillary lesions, was a common finding but was “not mutation-specific”. The probands of the two families were diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy based on clinicopathological evaluation. Their family histories were relevant for parkinsonism in three siblings of Family 1 and one brother and the father from Family 2, but these were not autopsy-confirmed. DNA from the brains of the probands from these families was screened for MAPT and leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 gene mutations, but no mutations were identified.
PMCID: PMC4674317  PMID: 26550830
6.  Evaluating pathogenic dementia variants in posterior cortical atrophy 
Neurobiology of aging  2015;37:38-44.
Posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) is an understudied visual impairment syndrome most often due to “posterior Alzheimer’s disease (AD)” pathology. Case studies detected mutations in PSEN1, PSEN2, GRN, MAPT and PRNP in subjects with clinical PCA. To detect the frequency and spectrum of mutations in known dementia genes in PCA, we screened 124 European-American subjects with clinical PCA (n=67) or posterior AD neuropathology (n=57) for variants in genes implicated in AD, frontotemporal dementia, and prion disease using NeuroX, a customized exome array. Frequencies in PCA of the variants annotated as pathogenic or potentially pathogenic were compared against ~4,300 European-American population controls from the NHLBI Exome Sequencing Project (ESP). We identified two rare variants not previously reported in PCA, TREM2 Arg47His and PSEN2 Ser130Leu. No other pathogenic or potentially pathogenic variants were detected in the screened dementia genes. In this first systematic variant screen of a PCA cohort, we report two rare mutations in TREM2 and PSEN2, validate our previously reported APOE ε4 association, and demonstrate the utility of NeuroX.
PMCID: PMC4688220  PMID: 26507310
PCA; posterior Alzheimer’s disease; dementia; APOE; TREM2; PSEN2; NeuroX
7.  Arguing Against the Proposed Definition Changes of PD 
As members of the Lewy Body Dementia Association Scientific Advisory Council, we aim to address some of the issues raised in the article entitled, "Time to redefine PD? Introductory statement of the MDS Task Force on the definition of Parkinson's disease." In particular, we suggest that the one-year rule distinguishing Parkinson’s disease dementia from dementia with Lewy bodies is worth maintaining because it serves an important purpose in clinical practice, in clinical and basic science research, and in helping the lay community understand the complexity of these different clinical phenotypes. Furthermore, we believe that adding an additional diagnostic label, “PD (dementia with Lewy bodies subtype)”, will confuse rather than clarify the distinction between dementia with Lewy bodies and PD or PD dementia, and will not improve management or expedite therapeutic development. We present arguments supporting our contentions.
PMCID: PMC5168716  PMID: 27492190
8.  TDP-43 in the olfactory bulb in Alzheimer’s disease 
PMCID: PMC5154242  PMID: 26810591
9.  Mitochondrial targeting sequence variants of the CHCHD2 gene are a risk for Lewy body disorders 
Neurology  2015;85(23):2016-2025.
To assess the role of CHCHD2 variants in patients with Parkinson disease (PD) and Lewy body disease (LBD) in Caucasian populations.
All exons of the CHCHD2 gene were sequenced in a US Caucasian patient-control series (878 PD, 610 LBD, and 717 controls). Subsequently, exons 1 and 2 were sequenced in an Irish series (355 PD and 365 controls) and a Polish series (394 PD and 350 controls). Immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence studies were performed on pathologic LBD cases with rare CHCHD2 variants.
We identified 9 rare exonic variants of unknown significance. These variants were more frequent in the combined group of PD and LBD patients compared to controls (0.6% vs 0.1%, p = 0.013). In addition, the presence of any rare variant was more common in patients with LBD (2.5% vs 1.0%, p = 0.050) compared to controls. Eight of these 9 variants were located within the gene's mitochondrial targeting sequence.
Although the role of variants of the CHCHD2 gene in PD and LBD remains to be further elucidated, the rare variants in the mitochondrial targeting sequence may be a risk factor for Lewy body disorders, which may link CHCHD2 to other genetic forms of parkinsonism with mitochondrial dysfunction.
PMCID: PMC4676755  PMID: 26561290
10.  C9ORF72 poly(GA) aggregates sequester and impair HR23 and nucleocytoplasmic transport proteins 
Nature neuroscience  2016;19(5):668-677.
Neuronal inclusions of poly(GA), a protein unconventionally translated from G4C2 repeat expansions in C9ORF72, are abundant in patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) caused by this mutation. To investigate poly(GA) toxicity, we generated mice that exhibit poly(GA) pathology, neurodegeneration and behavioral abnormalities reminiscent of FTD and ALS. These phenotypes occurred in the absence of TDP-43 pathology and required poly(GA) aggregation. HR23 proteins involved in proteasomal degradation and proteins involved in nucleocytoplasmic transport were sequestered by poly(GA) in these mice. HR23A and HR23B similarly colocalized to poly(GA) inclusions in C9ORF72 expansion carriers. Sequestration was accompanied by an accumulation of ubiquitinated proteins and decreased xeroderma pigmentosum C (XPC) levels in mice, indicative of HR23A and HR23B dysfunction. Restoring HR23B levels attenuated poly(GA) aggregation and rescued poly(GA)-induced toxicity in neuronal cultures. These data demonstrate that sequestration and impairment of nuclear HR23 and nucleocytoplasmic transport proteins is an outcome of, and a contributor to, poly(GA) pathology.
PMCID: PMC5138863  PMID: 26998601
11.  C9orf72 BAC transgenic mice display typical pathologic features of ALS/FTD 
Neuron  2015;88(5):892-901.
Noncoding expansions of a hexanucleotide repeat (GGGGCC) in the C9orf72 gene are the most common cause of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia. Here we report transgenic mice carrying a bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) containing the full human C9orf72 gene with either a normal allele (15 repeats) or disease-associated expansion (~100-1000 repeats; C9-BACexp). C9-BACexp mice displayed pathologic features seen in C9orf72 expansion patients, including widespread RNA foci and repeat associated non-ATG (RAN) translated dipeptides, which were suppressed by antisense oligonucleotides targeting human C9orf72. Nucleolin distribution was altered supporting that either C9orf72 transcripts or RAN dipeptides promote nucleolar dysfunction. Despite early and widespread production of RNA foci and RAN dipeptides in C9-BACexp mice, behavioral abnormalities and neurodegeneration were not observed even at advanced ages, supporting the hypothesis that RNA foci and RAN dipeptides occur presymptomatically, and are not sufficient to drive neurodegeneration in mice at levels seen in patients.
PMCID: PMC4672384  PMID: 26637796
12.  Expression of human C9ORF72 hexanucleotide expansion reproduces RNA foci and dipeptide repeat proteins but not neurodegeneration in BAC transgenic mice 
Neuron  2015;88(5):902-909.
A non-coding hexanucleotide repeat expansion in the C9ORF72 gene is the most common mutation associated with familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Patients harboring this expansion develop several unique histopathological hallmarks, including intranuclear foci composed of either sense or antisense RNA transcripts from the expanded repeats and dipeptide repeat proteins generated by non-canonical translation of the expanded RNA transcripts. To further investigate the pathological role of C9ORF72 in these diseases, we generated a line of mice carrying a bacterial artificial chromosome containing exons 1 to 6 of the human C9ORF72 gene with approximately 500 repeats of the GGGGCC motif. The mice showed no overt behavioral phenotype but recapitulated distinctive histopathological features that are the hallmark of C9ORF72 ALS/FTD, including sense and antisense intranuclear RNA foci and poly(glycine-proline) dipeptides repeat proteins. Finally, using a synthetic microRNA that targets human C9ORF72 in cultures of primary cortical neurons from the C9BAC mice, we have attenuated expression of the C9BAC transgene and the poly(GP) dipeptides. The C9ORF72 BAC transgenic mice will be a valuable tool in the study of ALS/FTD pathobiology and therapy.
PMCID: PMC4828340  PMID: 26637797
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); frontotemporal dementia (FTD); C9ORF72; transgenic mice; RNA foci; RAN translation; repeat expansions; neurodegeneration
13.  Transmission of Soluble and Insoluble α-Synuclein to Mice 
The neurodegenerative synucleinopathies, which include Parkinson disease, multiple system atrophy, and Lewy body disease, are characterized by the presence of abundant neuronal inclusions called Lewy bodies and Lewy neurites. These disorders remain incurable and a greater understanding of the pathologic processes is needed for effective treatment strategies to be developed. Recent data suggest that pathogenic misfolding of the presynaptic protein, α-synuclein (α-syn), and subsequent aggregation and accumulation is fundamental to the disease process. It is hypothesized that the misfolded isoform is able to induce misfolding of normal endogenous α-syn, much like what occurs in the prion diseases. Recent work highlighting the seeding effect of pathogenic α-syn has largely focused on the detergent-insoluble species of the protein. In this study we performed intracerebral inoculations of the sarkosyl-insoluble or sarkosyl-soluble fractions of human Lewy body disease brain homogenate and show that both fractions induce CNS pathology in mice at 4 months post-injection. Disease-associated deposits accumulated both near and distal to the site of the injection suggesting a cell-to-cell spread via recruitment of α-syn. These results provide further insight into the prion-like mechanisms of α-syn and suggest that disease-associated α-syn is not homogenous within a single patient but might exist in both soluble and insoluble isoforms.
PMCID: PMC4654695  PMID: 26574670
α-Synuclein; Lewy body disease; Parkinson disease; Prion; Prion-like; Soluble prion
14.  Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Pathology in a Neurodegenerative Disorders Brain Bank 
Acta neuropathologica  2015;130(6):877-889.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder linked to repetitive traumatic brain injury (TBI) and characterized by deposition of hyperphosphorylated tau at the depths of sulci. We sought to determine the presence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) pathology in a brain bank for neurodegenerative disorders for individuals with and without a history of contact sports participation. Available medical records of 1,721 men were reviewed for evidence of past history of injury or participation in contact sports. Subsequently, cerebral cortical samples were processed for tau immunohistochemistry in cases with a documented history of sports exposure as well as age- and disease-matched men and women without such exposure. For cases with available frozen tissue, genetic analysis was performed for variants in APOE, MAPT, and TMEM106B. Immunohistochemistry revealed 21 of 66 former athletes had cortical tau pathology consistent with CTE. CTE pathology was not detected in 198 individuals without exposure to contact sports, including 33 individuals with documented single-incident TBI sustained from falls, motor vehicle accidents, domestic violence, or assaults. Among those exposed to contact sports, those with CTE pathology did not differ from those without CTE pathology with respect to noted clinicopathologic features. There were no significant differences in genetic variants for those with CTE pathology, but we observed a slight increase in MAPT H1 haplotype, and there tended to be fewer homozygous carriers of the protective TMEM106B rs3173615 minor allele in those with sports exposure and CTE pathology compared to those without CTE pathology. In conclusion, this study has identified a small, yet significant, subset of individuals with neurodegenerative disorders and concomitant CTE pathology. CTE pathology was only detected in individuals with documented participation in contact sports. Exposure to contact sports was the greatest risk factor for CTE pathology. Future studies addressing clinical correlates of CTE pathology are needed.
PMCID: PMC4655127  PMID: 26518018
chronic traumatic encephalopathy; traumatic brain injury; sports; microtubule-associated protein tau; brain bank
15.  Novel clinical associations with specific C9ORF72 transcripts in patients with repeat expansions in C9ORF72 
Acta neuropathologica  2015;130(6):863-876.
The loss of chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72) expression, associated with C9ORF72 repeat expansions, has not been examined systematically. Three C9ORF72 transcript variants have been described thus far; the GGGGCC repeat is located between two non-coding exons (exon 1a and exon 1b) in the promoter region of transcript variant 2 (NM_018325.4) or in the first intron of variant 1 (NM_145005.6) and variant 3 (NM_001256054.2). We studied C9ORF72 expression in expansion carriers (n = 56) for whom cerebellum and/or frontal cortex was available. Using quantitative real-time PCR and digital molecular barcoding techniques, we assessed total C9ORF72 transcripts, variant 1, variant 2, variant 3, and intron containing transcripts [upstream of the expansion (intron 1a) and downstream of the expansion (intron 1b)]; the latter were correlated with levels of poly(GP) and poly(GA) proteins aberrantly translated from the expansion as measured by immunoassay (n = 50). We detected a decrease in expansion carriers as compared to controls for total C9ORF72 transcripts, variant 1, and variant 2: the strongest association was observed for variant 2 (quantitative real-time PCR cerebellum: median 43 %, p = 1.26e-06, and frontal cortex: median 58 %, p = 1.11e-05; digital molecular barcoding cerebellum: median 31 %, p = 5.23e-10, and frontal cortex: median 53 %, p = 5.07e-10). Importantly, we revealed that variant 1 levels greater than the 25th percentile conferred a survival advantage [digital molecular barcoding cerebellum: hazard ratio (HR) 0.31, p = 0.003, and frontal cortex: HR 0.23, p = 0.0001]. When focusing on intron containing transcripts, analysis of the frontal cortex revealed an increase of potentially truncated transcripts in expansion carriers as compared to controls [digital molecular barcoding frontal cortex (intron 1a): median 272 %, p = 0.003], with the highest levels in patients pathologically diagnosed with frontotemporal lobar degeneration. In the cerebellum, our analysis suggested that transcripts were less likely to be truncated and, excitingly, we discovered that intron containing transcripts were associated with poly(GP) levels [digital molecular barcoding cerebellum (intron 1a): r = 0.33, p = 0.02, and (intron 1b): r = 0.49, p = 0.0004] and poly(GA) levels [digital molecular barcoding cerebellum (intron 1a): r = 0.34, p = 0.02, and (intron 1b): r = 0.38, p = 0.007]. In summary, we report decreased expression of specific C9ORF72 transcripts and provide support for the presence of truncated transcripts as well as pre-mRNAs that may serve as templates for RAN translation. We further show that higher C9ORF72 levels may have beneficial effects, which warrants caution in the development of new therapeutic approaches.
PMCID: PMC4655160  PMID: 26437865
C9ORF72; Frontotemporal dementia; Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Motor neuron disease; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Disease modifier
16.  Expression and processing analyses of wild type and p.R47H TREM2 variant in Alzheimer’s disease brains 
Genetic analyses showed that the triggering receptor expressed in myeloid cells 2 (TREM2) p.R47H variant increases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The question of whether the p.R47H mutation affects expression or function of the receptor remains unanswered. To address this question we quantified mRNA and analyzed protein profiles of WT and p.R47H TREM2 in human brains.
Quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) was performed using 2 sets of primers one that detects all TREM2 mRNA isoforms and one specific for the alternative spliced isoform (TREM2alt) that encodes for the extracellular domain (soluble TREM2). Because in the brain TREM2 is expressed primarily in microglial cells, we also assessed the levels of IBA1 to control for microglial variability across samples. For TREM2 protein quantitation and N-glycosylation processing, RIPA brain extracts were analyzed by Western blot before and after EndoH and PNGaseF treatments.
We identified statistically significant increased levels of TREM2 transcripts in the temporal cortex of AD subjects when compared with controls; TREM2alt was likewise higher in AD cases, but was not significant after adjustment for covariates. Quantitative analysis of TREM2 protein confirmed qPCR results that showed higher levels in AD than in control brains. Among AD subjects, we observed a trend towards higher mRNA and protein TREM2 levels in carriers of the p.R47H risk allele. Analysis of individual TREM2 species found no difference in the relative amounts of mature and immature species, and carboxyl terminal fragments between non carriers and p.R47H samples. Furthermore, TREM2 species from either non carriers or p.R47H brains were equally susceptible to EndoH and PNGaseF treatments.
Our results suggest that TREM2 expression is increased in AD. Furthermore, we provide evidence indicating that p.R47H mutation does not affect the levels of TREM2 either directly by altering expression or indirectly by affecting processing of the protein. Our data support previous findings that suggest that p.R47H variant affects TREM2 function by altering binding properties of the receptor rather than expression.
PMCID: PMC5124229  PMID: 27887626
AD; TREM2; R47H; Microglia
17.  Mitochondrial ATP synthase activity is impaired by suppressed O-GlcNAcylation in Alzheimer's disease 
Human Molecular Genetics  2015;24(22):6492-6504.
Glycosylation with O-linked β-N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) is one of the protein glycosylations affecting various intracellular events. However, the role of O-GlcNAcylation in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease (AD) is poorly understood. Mitochondrial adenosine 5′-triphosphate (ATP) synthase is a multiprotein complex that synthesizes ATP from ADP and Pi. Here, we found that ATP synthase subunit α (ATP5A) was O-GlcNAcylated at Thr432 and ATP5A O-GlcNAcylation was decreased in the brains of AD patients and transgenic mouse model, as well as Aβ-treated cells. Indeed, Aβ bound to ATP synthase directly and reduced the O-GlcNAcylation of ATP5A by inhibition of direct interaction between ATP5A and mitochondrial O-GlcNAc transferase, resulting in decreased ATP production and ATPase activity. Furthermore, treatment of O-GlcNAcase inhibitor rescued the Aβ-induced impairment in ATP production and ATPase activity. These results indicate that Aβ-mediated reduction of ATP synthase activity in AD pathology results from direct binding between Aβ and ATP synthase and inhibition of O-GlcNAcylation of Thr432 residue on ATP5A.
PMCID: PMC5007609  PMID: 26358770
18.  Role for the microtubule-associated protein tau variant p.A152T in risk of α-synucleinopathies 
Neurology  2015;85(19):1680-1686.
To assess the importance of MAPT variant p.A152T in the risk of synucleinopathies.
In this case-control study, we screened a large global series of patients and controls, and assessed associations between p.A152T and disease risk. We included 3,229 patients with clinical Parkinson disease (PD), 442 with clinical dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), 181 with multiple system atrophy (MSA), 832 with pathologically confirmed Lewy body disease (LBD), and 2,456 healthy controls.
The minor allele frequencies (MAF) in clinical PD cases (0.28%) and in controls (0.2%) were not found to be significantly different (odds ratio [OR] 1.37, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.63–2.98, p = 0.42). However, a significant association was observed with clinical DLB (MAF 0.68%, OR 5.76, 95% CI 1.62–20.51, p = 0.007) and LBD (MAF 0.42%, OR 3.55, 95% CI 1.04–12.17, p = 0.04). Additionally, p.A152T was more common in patients with MSA compared to controls (MAF 0.55%, OR 4.68, 95% CI 0.85–25.72, p = 0.08) but this was not statistically significant and therefore should be interpreted with caution.
Overall, our findings suggest that MAPT p.A152T is a rare low penetrance variant likely associated with DLB that may be influenced by coexisting LBD and AD pathology. Given the rare nature of the variant, further studies with greater sample size are warranted and will help to fully explain the role of p.A152T in the pathogenesis of the synucleinopathies.
PMCID: PMC4653108  PMID: 26333800
19.  A Novel Tau Mutation in Exon 12, p.Q336H, Causes Hereditary Pick Disease 
Pick disease (PiD) is a frontotemporal lobar degeneration with distinctive neuronal inclusions (Pick bodies) that are enriched in 3-repeat (3R) tau. Although mostly sporadic, mutations in the tau gene (MAPT) have been reported. We screened 24 cases of neuropathologically confirmed PiD for MAPT mutations and found a novel mutation (c.1008G>C, p.Q336H) in one patient. Pathogenicity was confirmed on microtubule assembly and tau filament formation assays. The patient was compared to sporadic PiD and PiD associated with MAPT mutations from a review of the literature. The patient had behavioral changes at 55 years of age, followed by reduced verbal fluency, parkinsonism and death at 63 years of age. His mother and maternal uncle had similar symptoms. Recombinant tau with p.Q336H mutation formed filaments faster than wild type tau, especially with 3R tau. It also promoted more microtubule assembly than wild type tau. We conclude that mutations in MAPT, including p.Q336H, can be associated with clinical, pathologic, and biochemical features that are similar to those in sporadic PiD. The pathomechanism of p.Q336H, and another previously reported variant at the same codon (p.Q336R), appears to be unique to MAPT mutations in that they not only predispose to abnormal tau filament formation but also facilitate microtubule assembly in a 3R tau-dependent manner.
PMCID: PMC4607649  PMID: 26426266
Dementia; Frontotemporal dementia; FTDP-17; FTLD-tau; Pick disease; Tau protein; Tau gene
20.  TDP-43 and pathological subtype of Alzheimer’s disease impact clinical features 
Annals of neurology  2015;78(5):697-709.
To determine whether the frequency of TDP-43 deposition in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) differs across pathologically defined AD subtypes (Hippocampal sparing [HpSp]; Typical and Limbic), and to further examine the relationship between TDP-43, pathological subtype, and clinical features in AD.
We identified all cases with pathologically-confirmed AD (NIA-Reagan intermediate-high probability, Braak stage IV–VI) independent of cognitive status (n=188). Neurofibrillary tangle counts were performed using thioflavin-S microscopy in hippocampus and three neocortical regions, and all cases were subtyped: HpSp AD Pathology (n=19); Typical AD Pathology (n=136); Limbic AD Pathology (n=33). TDP-43 immunoreactivity was performed in multiple brain regions to assess for the presence of TDP-43 and TDP-43 stage. All cases were clinically sub-classified at presentation as Amnestic AD Dementia versus Atypical AD Dementia. Statistical analysis was performed using linear and penalized logistic regression to assess associations with pathological subtype, and the effects of TDP-43, accounting for possible interactions between pathological subtype and TDP-43.
TDP-43 deposition was frequent in Typical (59%) and Limbic AD pathologies (67%), but not HpSp AD Pathology (21%) (p=0.003). The observed associations of TDP-43 with greater memory loss, naming and functional decline, and smaller hippocampal volumes, closest to death, did not differ across AD pathological subtype. Clinical presentation was associated with pathological subtype (p=0.01), but not TDP-43 (p=0.69).
Although the frequency of TDP-43 deposition in AD varies by pathological subtype, the observed effects of TDP-43 on clinical/MRI features are consistent across pathological subtypes. Clinical presentation in AD is driven by pathological subtype, not by TDP-43.
PMCID: PMC4623932  PMID: 26224156
TDP-43; Alzheimer’s disease; hippocampal sparing; memory; amnestic; atypical
21.  An MRI‐Based Atlas for Correlation of Imaging and Pathologic Findings in Alzheimer's Disease 
Journal of Neuroimaging  2016;26(3):264-268.
Pathologic diagnosis is the gold standard in evaluating imaging measures developed as biomarkers for pathologically defined disorders. A brain MRI atlas representing autopsy‐sampled tissue can be used to directly compare imaging and pathology findings. Our objective was to develop a brain MRI atlas representing the cortical regions that are routinely sampled at autopsy for the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease (AD).
Subjects (n = 22; ages at death = 70‐95) with a range of pathologies and antemortem 3T MRI were included. Histology slides from 8 cortical regions sampled from the left hemisphere at autopsy guided the localization of the atlas regions of interest (ROIs) on each subject's antemortem 3D T1‐weighted MRI. These ROIs were then registered to a common template and combined to form one ROI representing the volume of tissue that was sampled by the pathologists. A subset of the subjects (n = 4; ages at death = 79‐95) had amyloid PET imaging. Density of β‐amyloid immunostain was quantified from the autopsy‐sampled regions in the 4 subjects using a custom‐designed ImageScope algorithm. Median uptake values were calculated in each ROI on the amyloid‐PET images.
We found an association between β‐amyloid plaque density in 8 ROIs of the 4 subjects (total ROI n = 32) and median PiB SUVR (r 2 = .64; P < .0001).
In an atlas developed for imaging and pathologic correlation studies, we demonstrated that antemortem amyloid burden measured in the atlas ROIs on amyloid PET is strongly correlated with β‐amyloid density measured on histology. This atlas can be used in imaging and pathologic correlation studies.
PMCID: PMC4848115  PMID: 27017996
Alzheimer's disease; atlas; MRI; pathology
22.  Human whole genome genotype and transcriptome data for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases 
Scientific Data  2016;3:160089.
Previous genome-wide association studies (GWAS), conducted by our group and others, have identified loci that harbor risk variants for neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease (AD). Human disease variants are enriched for polymorphisms that affect gene expression, including some that are known to associate with expression changes in the brain. Postulating that many variants confer risk to neurodegenerative disease via transcriptional regulatory mechanisms, we have analyzed gene expression levels in the brain tissue of subjects with AD and related diseases. Herein, we describe our collective datasets comprised of GWAS data from 2,099 subjects; microarray gene expression data from 773 brain samples, 186 of which also have RNAseq; and an independent cohort of 556 brain samples with RNAseq. We expect that these datasets, which are available to all qualified researchers, will enable investigators to explore and identify transcriptional mechanisms contributing to neurodegenerative diseases.
PMCID: PMC5058336  PMID: 27727239
Neurodegeneration; Genetics of the nervous system; Genome-wide association studies; RNA sequencing
23.  A genome-wide association study in multiple system atrophy 
Neurology  2016;87(15):1591-1598.
To identify genetic variants that play a role in the pathogenesis of multiple system atrophy (MSA), we undertook a genome-wide association study (GWAS).
We performed a GWAS with >5 million genotyped and imputed single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 918 patients with MSA of European ancestry and 3,864 controls. MSA cases were collected from North American and European centers, one third of which were neuropathologically confirmed.
We found no significant loci after stringent multiple testing correction. A number of regions emerged as potentially interesting for follow-up at p < 1 × 10−6, including SNPs in the genes FBXO47, ELOVL7, EDN1, and MAPT. Contrary to previous reports, we found no association of the genes SNCA and COQ2 with MSA.
We present a GWAS in MSA. We have identified several potentially interesting gene loci, including the MAPT locus, whose significance will have to be evaluated in a larger sample set. Common genetic variation in SNCA and COQ2 does not seem to be associated with MSA. In the future, additional samples of well-characterized patients with MSA will need to be collected to perform a larger MSA GWAS, but this initial study forms the basis for these next steps.
PMCID: PMC5067544  PMID: 27629089
24.  A truncating SOD1 mutation, p.Gly141X, is associated with clinical and pathologic heterogeneity, including frontotemporal lobar degeneration 
Acta neuropathologica  2015;130(1):145-157.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a degenerative disorder affecting upper and lower motor neurons, but it is increasingly recognized to affect other systems, with cognitive impairment resembling frontotemporal dementia (FTD) in some patients. We report clinical and pathologic findings of a family with ALS due to a truncating mutation, p.Gly141X, in copper/zinc superoxide dismutase (SOD1). The proband presented clinically with FTD and later showed progressive motor neuron disease, while all other family members had early-onset and rapidly progressive ALS without significant cognitive deficits. Pathologic examination of both the proband and her daughter revealed degeneration of corticospinal tracts and motor neurons in brain and spinal cord compatible with ALS. On the other hand, the proband also had neocortical and limbic system degeneration with pleomorphic neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions. Extramotor pathology in her daughter was relatively restricted to the hypothalamus and extrapyramidal system, but not the neocortex. The inclusions in the proband and her daughter were immunoreactive for SOD1, but negative for TAR DNA binding protein of 43 kDa (TDP-43). In the proband, a number of the neocortical inclusions were immunopositive for α-internexin, initially suggesting a diagnosis of atypical FTLD, but there was no evidence of fused in sarcoma (FUS) immunoreactivity, which is often detected in atypical FTLD. Analogous to atypical FTLD, neuronal inclusions had variable co-localization of SOD1 and α-internexin. The current classification of FTLD is based on the major constituent protein: FTLD-tau, FTLD-TDP-43, and FTLD-FUS. The proband in this family indicates that SOD1, while rare, can also be the substrate of FTLD, in addition to the more common presentation of ALS. The explanation for clinical and pathologic heterogeneity of SOD1 mutations, including the p.Gly141X mutation, remains unresolved.
PMCID: PMC5039014  PMID: 25917047
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; electron microscopy; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; immunohistochemistry; internexin-alpha; neurofilament; superoxide dismutase 1
25.  A novel tau mutation, p.K317N, causes globular glial tauopathy 
Acta neuropathologica  2015;130(2):199-214.
Globular glial tauopathy (GGT) are 4-repeat tauopathies neuropathologically characterized by tau-positive, globular glial inclusions, including both globular oligodendroglial inclusions (GOI) and globular astrocytic inclusions (GAI). No mutations have been found in 25 of the 30 GGT cases reported in the literature who have been screened for mutations in microtubule associated protein tau (MAPT). In this report, six patients with GGT (four with subtype III and two with subtype I) were screened for MAPT mutations. They included 4 men and 2 women with a mean age at death of 73 years (55–83 years) and mean age at symptomatic onset of 66 years (50–77 years). Disease duration ranged from 5 to 14 years. All were homozygous for the MAPT H1 haplotype. Three patients had a positive family history of dementia, and a novel MAPT mutation (c.951G>C, p.K317N) was identified in one of them, a patient with subtype III. Recombinant tau protein bearing the lysine-to-asparagine substitution at amino acid residue 317 was used to assess functional significance of the variant on microtubule assembly and tau filament formation. Recombinant p.K317N tau had reduced ability to promote tubulin polymerization. Recombinant 3R and 4R tau bearing the p.K317N mutation showed decreased 3R tau and increased 4R tau filament assembly. These results strongly suggest that the p.K317N variant is pathogenic. Sequencing of MAPT should be considered in patients with GGT and a family history of dementia or movement disorder. Since several individuals in our series had a positive family history but no MAPT mutation, genetic factors other than MAPT may play a role in disease pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC5039015  PMID: 25900293
FTDP-17; globular glial tauopathy (GGT); hereditary tauopathies; tau biochemistry; tau gene (MAPT)

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