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1.  A Quantitative Postmortem MRI Design Sensitive to White Matter Hyperintensity Differences and their Relationship with Underlying Pathology 
White matter hyperintensities (WMHs) associate with both cognitive slowing and motor dysfunction in the neurologically normal elderly. A full understanding of the pathology underlying this clinicoradiologic finding is currently lacking in autopsy-confirmed normal brains. To determine the histopathologic basis of WMH seen on MRI, we studied the relationship between postmortem fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) intensity and neuropathologic markers of white matter lesions (WMLs) that correspond to WMH in cognitively normal aging brains. Samples of periventricular (n = 24), subcortical (n = 26), and normal-appearing white matter (NAWM, n = 31) from 4 clinically and pathologically-confirmed normal cases were examined. FLAIR intensity, vacuolation, and myelin basic protein (MBP) immunoreactivity loss were significantly higher in periventricular WML vs. subcortical WML; both were higher than in NAWM. The subcortical WML and NAWM had significantly less axonal loss, astrocytic burden, microglial density, and oligodendrocyte loss than the periventricular WML. Thus, vacuolation, myelin density and small vessel density contribute to the rarefaction of white matter whereas axonal density, oligodendrocyte density, astroglial burden and microglial density did not. These data suggest that the age-related loss of MBP and a decrease in small vessel density, may contribute to vacuolation of white matter. The vacuolation enables interstitial fluid to accumulate, which contributes to the prolonged T2 relaxation and elevated FLAIR intensity in the white matter.
PMCID: PMC3511604  PMID: 23147507
Digital microscopy; Fluid attenuated inversion recovery; Normal aging; Oligodendrocytes; Postmortem magnetic resonance imaging; White matter
2.  Genetics of Vascular Dementia 
Minerva psichiatrica  2010;51(1):9-25.
Genetic studies are transforming the way we diagnose, evaluate and treat patients. The era of genome-wide association studies promised to discover common risk variants in heterogeneous disorders where previous small-scale association studies had on the whole failed. However, as we enter the post-association era a degree of disappoint is felt regarding the lack of risk factors with large effect for a number of disorders including vascular disease. Vascular disorders are sporadic by nature, though a familial component has been observed. This review will focus on vascular dementia, the genetic risk factors for vascular disorders and highlight how new technologies may overcome the limitations of genome-wide association and nominate those genes that influence disease risk.
PMCID: PMC4332411
3.  Clinicopathologic assessment and imaging of tauopathies in neurodegenerative dementias 
Microtubule-associated protein tau encoded by the MAPT gene binds to microtubules and is important for maintaining neuronal morphology and function. Alternative splicing of MAPT pre-mRNA generates six major tau isoforms in the adult central nervous system resulting in tau proteins with three or four microtubule-binding repeat domains. In a group of neurodegenerative disorders called tauopathies, tau becomes aberrantly hyperphosphorylated and dissociates from microtubules, resulting in a progressive accumulation of intracellular tau aggregates. The spectrum of sporadic frontotemporal lobar degeneration associated with tau pathology includes progressive supranuclear palsy, corticobasal degeneration, and Pick’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is considered the most prevalent tauopathy. This review is divided into two broad sections. In the first section we discuss the molecular classification of sporadic tauopathies, with a focus on describing clinicopathologic relationships. In the second section we discuss the neuroimaging methodologies that are available for measuring tau pathology (directly using tau positron emission tomography ligands) and tau-mediated neuronal injury (magnetic resonance imaging and fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography). Both sections have detailed descriptions of the following neurodegenerative dementias – Alzheimer’s disease, progressive supranuclear palsy, corticobasal degeneration and Pick’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3978456  PMID: 24382028
4.  FUS is Phosphorylated by DNA-PK and Accumulates in the Cytoplasm after DNA Damage 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2014;34(23):7802-7813.
Abnormal cytoplasmic accumulation of Fused in Sarcoma (FUS) in neurons defines subtypes of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). FUS is a member of the FET protein family that includes Ewing's sarcoma (EWS) and TATA-binding protein-associated factor 2N (TAF15). FET proteins are predominantly localized to the nucleus, where they bind RNA and DNA to modulate transcription, mRNA splicing, and DNA repair. In ALS cases with FUS inclusions (ALS-FUS), mutations in the FUS gene cause disease, whereas FTLD cases with FUS inclusions (FTLD-FUS) do not harbor FUS mutations. Notably, in FTLD-FUS, all FET proteins accumulate with their nuclear import receptor Transportin 1 (TRN1), in contrast ALS-FUS inclusions are exclusively positive for FUS. In the present study, we show that induction of DNA damage replicates several pathologic hallmarks of FTLD-FUS in immortalized human cells and primary human neurons and astrocytes. Treatment with the antibiotic calicheamicin γ1, which causes DNA double-strand breaks, leads to the cytoplasmic accumulation of FUS, TAF15, EWS, and TRN1. Moreover, cytoplasmic translocation of FUS is mediated by phosphorylation of its N terminus by the DNA-dependent protein kinase. Finally, we observed elevated levels of phospho-H2AX in FTLD-FUS brains, indicating that DNA damage occurs in patients. Together, our data reveal a novel regulatory mechanism for FUS localization in cells and suggest that DNA damage may contribute to the accumulation of FET proteins observed in human FTLD-FUS cases, but not in ALS-FUS.
PMCID: PMC4044245  PMID: 24899704
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); cytoplasmic translocation; DNA damage; frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD); Fused in Sarcoma (FUS); phosphorylation
5.  MRI and pathology of REM sleep behavior disorder in dementia with Lewy bodies 
Neurology  2013;81(19):1681-1689.
To determine structural MRI and digital microscopic characteristics of REM sleep behavior disorder in individuals with low-, intermediate-, and high-likelihood dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) at autopsy.
Patients with autopsy-confirmed low-, intermediate-, and high-likelihood DLB, according to the probability statement recommended by the third report of the DLB Consortium, and antemortem MRI, were identified (n = 75). The clinical history was assessed for presence (n = 35) and absence (n = 40) of probable REM sleep behavior disorder (pRBD), and patients' antemortem MRIs were compared using voxel-based morphometry. Pathologic burdens of phospho-tau, β-amyloid, and α-synuclein were measured in regions associated with early neuropathologic involvement, the hippocampus and amygdala.
pRBD was present in 21 patients (60%) with high-likelihood, 12 patients (34%) with intermediate-likelihood, and 2 patients (6%) with low-likelihood DLB. Patients with pRBD were younger, more likely to be male (p ≤ 0.001), and had a more frequent neuropathologic diagnosis of diffuse (neocortical) Lewy body disease. In the hippocampus and amygdala, phospho-tau and β-amyloid burden were lower in patients with pRBD compared with those without pRBD (p < 0.01). α-Synuclein burden did not differ in the hippocampus, but trended in the amygdala. Patients without pRBD had greater atrophy of temporoparietal cortices, hippocampus, and amygdala (p < 0.001) than those with pRBD; atrophy of the hippocampus (p = 0.005) and amygdala (p = 0.02) were associated with greater phospho-tau burdens in these regions.
Presence of pRBD is associated with a higher likelihood of DLB and less severe Alzheimer-related pathology in the medial temporal lobes, whereas absence of pRBD is characterized by Alzheimer-like atrophy patterns on MRI and increased phospho-tau burden.
PMCID: PMC3812105  PMID: 24107861
6.  Quantitative neurofibrillary tangle density and brain volumetric MRI analyses in Alzheimer’s disease presenting as logopenic progressive aphasia 
Brain and language  2013;127(2):10.1016/j.bandl.2013.02.003.
Neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) are one of the key histological lesions of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and are associated with brain atrophy. We assessed regional NFT density in 30 patients with AD, 10 of which presented as the logopenic variant of primary progressive aphasia (lvPPA) and 20 that presented as dementia of the Alzheimer’s type (DAT). Regional grey matter volumes were measured using antemortem MRI. NFT density was significantly higher in left temporoparietal cortices in lvPPA compared to DAT, with no differences observed in hippocampus. There was a trend for the ratio of temporoparietal-to-hippocampal NFT density to be higher in lvPPA. The imaging findings mirrored the pathological findings, with smaller left temporoparietal volumes observed in lvPPA compared to DAT, and no differences observed in hippocampal volume. This study demonstrates that lvPPA is associated with a phenomenon of enhanced temporoparietal neurodegeneration, a finding that improves our understanding of the biological basis of lvPPA.
PMCID: PMC3840097  PMID: 23541297
Primary progressive aphasia; Logopenic variant of primary progressive aphasia; Alzheimer’s disease; Neurofibrillary tangles; Hippocampus; MRI; Apolipoprotein E; TDP-43; Voxel-based morphometry; Alzheimer’s dementia
7.  Associations of repeat sizes with clinical and pathological characteristics in C9ORF72 expansion carriers (Xpansize-72): a cross-sectional cohort study 
Lancet neurology  2013;12(10):10.1016/S1474-4422(13)70210-2.
Hexanucleotide repeat expansions in chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72) are currently the major genetic cause of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and motor neuron disease (MND). Presently, it is unknown whether expansion size affects disease severity or phenotypes.
We performed a cross-sectional Southern blot characterization study (Xpansize-72) in a cohort of subjects obtained at the Mayo Clinic and Banner Sun Health Research Institute. All subjects carried GGGGCC repeat expansions in C9ORF72, and high quality DNA was available from the frontal cortex, cerebellum and/or blood. Southern blotting techniques and densitometry were employed to estimate the repeat size of the most abundant expansion species. Comparisons of repeat sizes between tissues were made using Wilcoxon rank sum and Wilcoxon signed rank tests, and between disease subgroups using Kruskal-Wallis rank sum tests. The association of repeat size with age at onset and age at collection was evaluated using a Spearman’s test of correlation; whereas the association between repeat size and survival after disease onset was examined using Cox proportional hazards regression models.
Our cohort consisted of 84 C9ORF72 expansion carriers, including FTD patients (n=35), FTD/MND patients (n=16), MND patients (n=30), and unaffected subjects (n=3). We focused our analysis on three major tissue subgroups: frontal cortex (41 subjects [21 FTD, 11 FTD/MND, 9 MND]), cerebellum (40 subjects [20 FTD, 12 FTD/MND, 8 MND]), and blood (50 subjects [15 FTD, 9 FTD/MND, 23 MND, 3 unaffected expansion carriers]). Repeat lengths in the cerebellum were significantly smaller (median 12·3 kb [~1667 repeat units], IQR 11·1–14·3) than in the frontal cortex (median 33·8 kb [~5250 repeat units], IQR 23·5–44·9, p<0·0001), or in blood (median 18·6 kb [~2717 repeat units], IQR 13·9–28·1, p=0·0002). Within these tissues, there was no significant difference in repeat length between disease subgroups (cerebellum p=0·96, frontal cortex p=0·27, blood p=0·10). In the frontal cortex of FTD patients, repeat length correlated with age at onset (r=0·63, p=0·003) and age at collection (r=0·58, p=0·006); this correlation was not detected in the cerebellum or blood. Finally, only in the cerebellum, survival after disease onset was poorer in patients from our overall cohort with repeat lengths greater than 1467 repeat units (25th percentile, HR 3·27, 95% CI 1·34–7·95, p=0·009): the median survival was 4·8 years (IQR 3·0–7·4) in the group with longer expansions versus 7·4 years (IQR 6·3–10·9) in the group with smaller expansions.
Substantial variation in repeat size is observed between cerebellum, frontal cortex, and blood; relatively long repeat sizes in the cerebellum confer an important survival disadvantage. Our findings indicate that expansion size does affect disease severity, which could be relevant for genetic counseling.
PMCID: PMC3879782  PMID: 24011653
8.  Progressive Amnestic Dementia, Hippocampal Sclerosis, and Mutation in C9ORF72 
Acta neuropathologica  2013;126(4):545-554.
The most common cause of familial frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TAR DNA-binding protein-43 pathology (FTLD-TDP) has been found to be an expansion of a hexanucleotide repeat (GGGGCC) in a noncoding region of the gene C9ORF72. Hippocampal sclerosis (HpScl) is a common finding in FTLD-TDP. Our objective was to screen for the presence of C9ORF72 hexanucleotide repeat expansions in a pathologically-confirmed cohort of “pure” hippocampal sclerosis cases (n=33), outside the setting of FTLD-TDP and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Using a recently described repeat-associated non-ATG (RAN) translation (C9RANT) antibody that was found to be highly specific for c9FTD/ALS, we identified a single “pure” HpScl autopsy case with a repeat expansion in C9ORF72 (c9HpScl). Mutation screening was also performed with repeat-primed polymerase chain reaction and further confirmed with southern blotting. The c9HpScl patient had a 14-year history of a slowly progressive amnestic syndrome and a clinical diagnosis of probable AD. Neuropsychological testing revealed memory impairment, but no deficits in other cognitive domains. Autopsy showed hippocampal sclerosis with TDP-43 immunoreactive neuronal inclusions relatively limited to limbic lobe structures. Neuritic pathology immunoreactive for p62 was more frequent than TDP-43 in amygdala and hippocampus. Frequent p62 positive neuronal inclusions were present in cerebellar granule neurons as is typical of C9ORF72 mutation carriers. There was no significant FTLD or motor neuron disease. C9RANT was found to be sensitive and specific in this autopsy-confirmed series of HpScl cases. The findings in this patient suggest that the clinical and pathologic spectrum of C9ORF72 repeat expansion is wider than frontotemporal dementia and motor neuron disease, including cases of progressive amnestic dementia with restricted TDP-43 pathology associated with HpScl.
PMCID: PMC3926101  PMID: 23922030
Hippocampus; C9ORF72; memory; neuropathology; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; C9RANT
9.  Genetic modifiers in carriers of repeat expansions in the C9ORF72 gene 
Hexanucleotide repeat expansions in chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72) are causative for frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and motor neuron disease (MND). Substantial phenotypic heterogeneity has been described in patients with these expansions. We set out to identify genetic modifiers of disease risk, age at onset, and survival after onset that may contribute to this clinical variability.
We examined a cohort of 330 C9ORF72 expansion carriers and 374 controls. In these individuals, we assessed variants previously implicated in FTD and/or MND; 36 variants were included in our analysis. After adjustment for multiple testing, our analysis revealed three variants significantly associated with age at onset (rs7018487 [UBAP1; p-value = 0.003], rs6052771 [PRNP; p-value = 0.003], and rs7403881 [MT-Ie; p-value = 0.003]), and six variants significantly associated with survival after onset (rs5848 [GRN; p-value = 0.001], rs7403881 [MT-Ie; p-value = 0.001], rs13268953 [ELP3; p-value = 0.003], the epsilon 4 allele [APOE; p-value = 0.004], rs12608932 [UNC13A; p-value = 0.003], and rs1800435 [ALAD; p-value = 0.003]).
Variants identified through this study were previously reported to be involved in FTD and/or MND, but we are the first to describe their effects as potential disease modifiers in the presence of a clear pathogenic mutation (i.e. C9ORF72 repeat expansion). Although validation of our findings is necessary, these variants highlight the importance of protein degradation, antioxidant defense and RNA-processing pathways, and additionally, they are promising targets for the development of therapeutic strategies and prognostic tests.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1750-1326-9-38) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4190282  PMID: 25239657
C9ORF72; Frontotemporal dementia; Motor neuron disease; Genetic modifier; Repeat expansion
10.  Optineurin immunoreactivity in neuronal and glial intranuclear inclusions in adult-onset neuronal intranuclear inclusion disease 
Optineurin (OPTN) is a multifunctional protein involved in cellular morphogenesis, vesicle trafficking, maintenance of the Golgi complex, and transcription activation through its interactions with the Rab8, myosin 6 (MYO6), huntingtin. Recently, OPTN immunoreactivity has been reported in intranuclear inclusions in patients with neuronal intranuclear inclusions disease (NIID). Other studies have shown that the RNA-binding protein, fused in sarcoma (FUS), is a component of intranuclear inclusions in NIID. We aimed to investigate the relationship between OPTN, its binding protein MYO6 and FUS in this study. In control subjects, OPTN (C-terminal) (OPTN-C) and MYO6 immunoreactivity was mainly demonstrated in the cytoplasm of neurons. In NIID patients, both neuronal intranuclear inclusions (NII) and glial intranuclear inclusions (GII) were immunopositive for MYO6 as well as OPTN-C. However, the intensity of OPTN-C immunostaining of the neuronal cytoplasm with and without NII was less than that of the control subjects. Double immunofluorescence staining for OPTN-C, ubiquitin (Ub), p62 and FUS revealed co-localization of these proteins within NII. Moreover, Ub positive inclusions were co-localized with MYO6. The percentage of co-localization of Ub with OPTN-C, FUS or MYO6 in NII was 100%, 52% and 92%, respectively. Ultrastructurally, the inclusions consisted of thin and thick filaments. Both filaments were immunopositive for Ub and OPTN-C. These findings suggest that OPTN plays a central role in the disease pathogenesis, and that OPTN may be a major component of NII.
PMCID: PMC4162590  PMID: 25232514
Optineurin; Myosin-6; neuronal intranuclear inclusion disease; FUS; intranuclear inclusion
11.  Similarities between familial and sporadic autopsy-proven progressive supranuclear palsy 
Neurology  2013;80(22):2076-2078.
Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) is a relatively common neurodegenerative tauopathy clinically characterized by parkinsonism, axial rigidity, and supranuclear gaze palsy. Pathologic findings of PSP are neuronal loss, gliosis, and neurofibrillary tangles in basal ganglia, diencephalon, and brainstem; there is increasing recognition of clinicopathologic variants of PSP.1
PMCID: PMC3716405  PMID: 23635960
12.  Corticobasal degeneration with olivopontocerebellar atrophy and TDP-43 pathology: an unusual clinicopathologic variant of CBD 
Acta neuropathologica  2013;125(5):741-752.
CBD is a disorder affecting cognition and movement due to a progressive neurodegeneration associated with distinctive neuropathologic features, including abnormal phosphorylated tau protein in neurons and glia in cortex, basal ganglia, diencephalon and brainstem, as well as ballooned neurons and astrocytic plaques. We identified three cases of CBD with olivopontocerebellar atrophy (CBD-OPCA) that did not have α-synuclein-positive glial cytoplasmic inclusions of multiple system atrophy (MSA). Two patients had clinical features suggestive of progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), and the third case had cerebellar ataxia thought to be due to idiopathic OPCA. Neuropathologic features of CBD-OPCA are compared to typical CBD, as well as MSA and PSP. CBD-OPCA and MSA had marked neuronal loss in pontine nuclei, inferior olivary nucleus, and Purkinje cell layer. Neuronal loss and grumose degeneration in the cerebellar dentate nucleus was comparable in CBD-OPCA and PSP. Image analysis of tau pathology showed greater infratentorial tau burden, especially in pontine base, in CBD-OPCA compared with typical CBD. Additionally, CBD-OPCA had TDP-43 immunoreactive neuronal and glial cytoplasmic inclusions and threads throughout the basal ganglia and in olivopontocerebellar system. CBD-OPCA met neuropathologic research diagnostic criteria for CBD and shared tau biochemical characteristics with typical CBD. These results suggest that CBD-OPCA is a distinct clinicopathologic variant of CBD with olivopontocerebellar TDP-43 pathology.
PMCID: PMC3633676  PMID: 23371366
Corticobasal degeneration; olivopontocerebellar atrophy; tauopathy; multiple system atrophy; progressive supranuclear palsy; TDP-43
13.  Tau Pathology in Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration with C9ORF72 Hexanucleotide Repeat Expansion 
Acta neuropathologica  2012;125(2):289-302.
An expanded GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat in C9ORF72 is the most common genetic cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration associated with TDP-43 pathology (FTLD-TDP). In addition to TDP-43-positive neuronal and glial inclusions, C9ORF72-linked FTLD-TDP has characteristic TDP-43-negative neuronal cytoplasmic and intranuclear inclusions as well as dystrophic neurites in the hippocampus and cerebellum. These lesions are immunopositive for ubiquitin and ubiquitin-binding proteins, such as sequestosome-1/p62 and ubiquilin-2. Studies examining the frequency of the C9ORF72 mutation in clinically probable Alzheimer’s disease (AD) have found a small proportion of AD cases with the mutation. This prompted us to systematically explore the frequency of Alzheimer type pathology in a series of 17 FTLD-TDP cases with mutations in C9ORF72 (FTLD-C9ORF72). We identified 4 cases with sufficient Alzheimer type pathology to meet criteria for intermediate-to-high likelihood AD. We compared AD pathology in the 17 FTLD-C9ORF72 to 13 cases of FTLD-TDP linked to mutations in the gene for progranulin (FTLD-GRN) and 36 cases of sporadic FTLD (sFTLD). FTLD-C9ORF72 cases had higher Braak neurofibrillary tangle stage than FTLD-GRN. Increased tau pathology in FTLD-C9ORF72 was assessed with thioflavin-S fluorescent microscopy-based neurofibrillary tangle counts and with image analysis of tau burden in temporal cortex and hippocampus. FTLD-C9ORF72 had significantly more neurofibrillary tangles and higher tau burden compared with FTLD-GRN. The differences were most marked in limbic regions. On the other hand, sFTLD and FTLD-C9ORF72 had a similar burden of tau pathology. These results suggest FTLD-C9ORF72 has increased propensity for tau pathology compared to FTLD-GRN, but not sFTLD. The accumulation of tau as well as lesions immunoreactive for ubiquitin and ubiquitin binding proteins (p62 and ubiquilin-2) suggests that mutations in C9ORF72 may involve disrupted protein degradation that favors accumulation of multiple different proteins.
PMCID: PMC3551994  PMID: 23053135
frontotemporal lobar degeneration; C9ORF72; ubiquitin; p62; ubiquilin-2; tau
14.  Corticospinal tract degeneration associated with TDP-43 type C pathology and semantic dementia 
Brain  2013;136(2):455-470.
Four subtypes of frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43 immunoreactive inclusions have been described (types A–D). Of these four subtypes, motor neuron disease is more commonly associated with type B pathology, but has also been reported with type A pathology. We have noted, however, the unusual occurrence of cases of type C pathology having corticospinal tract degeneration. We aimed to assess the severity of corticospinal tract degeneration in a large cohort of cases with type C (n = 31). Pathological analysis included semi-quantitation of myelin loss of fibres of the corticospinal tract and associated macrophage burden, as well as axonal loss, at the level of the medullary pyramids. We also assessed for motor cortex degeneration and fibre loss of the medial lemniscus/olivocerebellar tract. All cases were subdivided into three groups based on the degree of corticospinal tract degeneration: (i) no corticospinal tract degeneration; (ii) equivocal corticospinal tract degeneration; and (iii) moderate to very severe corticospinal tract degeneration. Clinical, genetic, pathological and imaging comparisons were performed across groups. Eight cases had no corticospinal tract degeneration, and 14 cases had equivocal to mild corticospinal tract degeneration. Nine cases, however, had moderate to very severe corticospinal tract degeneration with myelin and axonal loss. In these nine cases, there was degeneration of the motor cortex without lower motor neuron degeneration or involvement of other brainstem tracts. These cases most commonly presented as semantic dementia, and they had longer disease duration (mean: 15.3 years) compared with the other two groups (10.8 and 9.9 years; P = 0.03). After adjusting for disease duration, severity of corticospinal tract degeneration remained significantly different across groups. Only one case, without corticospinal tract degeneration, was found to have a hexanucleotide repeat expansion in the C9ORF72 gene. All three groups were associated with anterior temporal lobe atrophy on MRI; however, the cases with moderate to severe corticospinal tract degeneration showed right-sided temporal lobe asymmetry and greater involvement of the right temporal lobe and superior motor cortices than the other groups. In contrast, the cases with no or equivocal corticospinal tract degeneration were more likely to show left-sided temporal lobe asymmetry. For comparison, the corticospinal tract was assessed in 86 type A and B cases, and only two cases showed evidence of corticospinal tract degeneration without lower motor neuron degeneration. These findings confirm that there exists a unique association between frontotemporal lobar degeneration with type C pathology and corticospinal tract degeneration, with this entity showing a predilection to involve the right temporal lobe.
PMCID: PMC3572926  PMID: 23358603
TDP-43 type C; corticospinal tract; MRI; semantic dementia; right temporal lobe
15.  Neuropathologically defined subtypes of Alzheimer’s disease differ significantly from neurofibrillary tangle-predominant dementia 
Acta neuropathologica  2012;124(5):681-692.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) can be classified based on the relative density of neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) in the hippocampus and association cortices into three subtypes: typical AD, hippocampal-sparing AD (HpSp AD), and limbic-predominant AD (LP AD). AD subtypes not only have pathologic, but also demographic, clinical, and genetic differences. Neurofibrillary tangle-predominant dementia (NFTD), a disorder with NFTs relatively restricted to limbic structures, shares this feature with LP AD raising the possibility that NFTD is a variant of AD. The objective criteria for pathologic diagnosis of NFTD are not available. A goal of this study was to design a mathematical algorithm that could diagnose NFTD from NFT and senile plaque (SP) counts in hippocampus and association cortices, analogous to that used to subtype AD. Moreover, we aimed to compare pathologic, demographic, clinical, and genetic features of NFTD (n = 18) with LP AD (n = 19), as well as the other AD subtypes, typical AD (n = 52) and HpSp AD (n = 17). Using digital microscopy, we confirmed that burden of phospho-tau (CP13) and of an NFT conformational epitope (Ab39) correlated with NFT densities and showed expected patterns across AD subtypes. HpSp AD had the highest and LP AD had the lowest burden of cortical CP13 and Ab39 immunoreactivity. On the other hand, cortical β-amyloid burden did not significantly differ between AD subtypes. Semi-quantitative assessment of SPs in the basal ganglia did show HpSp AD to have significantly more frequent presence of SPs compared to typical AD, which was more frequent than LP AD. Compared to LP AD, NFTD had an older age at disease onset and shorter disease duration, as well as lower Braak NFT stage. NFTs and SPs on thioflavin-S fluorescent microscopy, as well as CP13, Ab39, and Aβ immunoreactivities were very low in the frontal cortex of NFTD, differentiating NFTD from AD subtypes, including LP AD. MAPT H1H1 genotype frequency was high (~70 %) in NFTD and LP AD, and similar to typical AD, while APOE ε4 carrier state was low in NFTD. While it shares clinical similarities with regard to female sex predominance, onset in advanced age, and a slow cognitive decline, NFTD has significant pathologic differences from LP AD, suggesting that it may not merely be a variant of AD.
PMCID: PMC3483034  PMID: 22968369
Alzheimer disease; Neurofibrillary tangle-predominant dementia; APOE; Digital microscopy; MAPT; Neurofibrillary tangles; Amyloid plaques; Basal ganglia
16.  Neuroimaging correlates of pathologically-defined atypical Alzheimer’s disease 
Lancet neurology  2012;11(10):868-877.
Atypical variants of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) have been pathologically defined based on the distribution of neurofibrillary tangles; hippocampal sparing (HpSp) AD shows minimal involvement of the hippocampus and limbic predominant (LP) AD shows neurofibrillary tangles restricted to the medial temporal lobe. We aimed to determine whether MRI patterns of atrophy differ across HpSp AD, LP AD and typical AD, and whether imaging could be a useful predictor of pathological subtype during life.
In this case-control study, we identified 177 patients who had been prospectively followed in the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, were demented during life, had AD pathology at autopsy (Braak stage ≥ IV, intermediate-high probability AD) and an antemortem MRI. Cases were assigned to one of three pathological subtypes (HpSp n=19, typical n=125, or LP AD n=33) based on neurofibrillary tangle counts and their ratio in association cortices to hippocampus, without reference to neuronal loss. Voxel-based morphometry and atlas-based parcellation were used to compare patterns of grey matter loss across groups, and to controls.
The severity of medial temporal and cortical grey matter atrophy differed across subtypes. The most severe medial temporal atrophy was observed in LP AD, followed by typical AD, and then HpSp AD. Conversely, the most severe cortical atrophy was observed in HpSp AD, followed by typical AD, and then LP AD. A ratio of hippocampal-to-cortical volume provided the best discrimination across all three AD subtypes. The majority of typical AD (98/125;78%) and LP AD (31/33;94%) subjects, but only 8/19 (42%) of the HpSp AD subjects, presented with a dominant amnestic syndrome.
Patterns of atrophy on MRI differ across the pathological subtypes of AD, suggesting that MR regional volumetrics reliably track the distribution of neurofibrillary tangle pathology and can predict pathological subtype during life.
US National Institutes of Health (National Institute on Aging)
PMCID: PMC3490201  PMID: 22951070
17.  Neuropathological analysis of brainstem cholinergic and catecholaminergic nuclei in relation to REM sleep behaviour disorder 
Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behaviour disorder (RBD) is characterized by loss of muscle atonia during REM sleep and is associated with dream enactment behaviour. RBD is often associated with α-synuclein pathology, and we examined if there is a relationship of RBD with cholinergic neuronal loss in the pedunculopontine/laterodorsal tegmental nucleus (PPN/LDT), compared to catecholaminergic neurons in a neighbouring nucleus, the locus coeruleus (LC).
This retrospective study, utilized human brain banked tissues of 11 Lewy body disease (LBD) cases with RBD, 10 LBD without RBD, 19 AD and 10 neurologically normal controls. Tissues were stained with choline acetyl transferase immunohistochemistry to label neurons of PPN/LDT and tyrosine hydroxylase for the LC. The burden of tau and α-synuclein pathology was measured in the same regions with immunohistochemistry.
Both the LC and PPN/LDT were vulnerable to α-synuclein pathology in LBD and tau pathology in AD, but significant neuronal loss was only detected in these nuclei in LBD. Greater cholinergic depletion was found in both LBD groups, regardless of RBD status, when compared with normals and AD. There were no differences in either degree of neuronal loss or burden of α-synuclein pathology in LBD with and without RBD.
Whether decreases in brainstem cholinergic neurons in LBD contribute to RBD is uncertain, but our findings indicate these neurons are highly vulnerable to α-synuclein pathology in LBD and tau pathology in AD. The mechanism of selective α-synuclein-mediated neuronal loss in these nuclei remains to be determined.
PMCID: PMC3218297  PMID: 21696423
α-synuclein; cholinergic; Lewy body; laterodorsal tegmentum; locus coeruleus; pedunculopontine nucleus; REM behaviour disorder; tau
18.  Rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder and subtypes in autopsy-confirmed dementia with Lewy bodies 
To determine whether dementia with Lewy bodies with or without probable rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder differ clinically or pathologically.
Patients with dementia with Lewy bodies who have probable rapid eye movement sleep behavior sleep disorder (n=71) were compared to those without it (n=19) on demographics, clinical variables (core features of dementia with Lewy bodies, dementia duration, rate of cognitive/motor changes) and pathologic indices (Lewy body distribution, neuritic plaque score, Braak neurofibrillary tangle stage).
Individuals with probable rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder were predominantly male (82% versus 47%), and had a shorter duration of dementia (mean 8 years versus 10 years), earlier onset of parkinsonism (mean 2 years versus 5 years), and earlier onset of visual hallucinations (mean 3 years versus 6 years). These patients also had a lower Braak neurofibrillary tangle stage (Stage IV versus Stage VI) and lower neuritic plaque scores (18% frequent versus 85% frequent), but no difference in Lewy body distribution. When probable rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder developed early (at or before dementia onset), the onset of parkinsonism and hallucinations was earlier and Braak neurofibrillary tangle stage was lower compared to those who developed the sleep disorder after dementia onset. Women with autopsy-confirmed DLB without a history of dream enactment behavior during sleep had a later onset of hallucinations and parkinsonism and a higher Braak NFT stage.
Probable rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder is associated with distinct clinical and pathologic characteristics of dementia with Lewy bodies.
PMCID: PMC3513369  PMID: 22038951
Parkinson’s disease; REM sleep behavior disorder; Dementia with Lewy bodies; Lewy body disease; Alzheimer’s disease
19.  Clinical and neuropathologic heterogeneity of c9FTD/ALS associated with hexanucleotide repeat expansion in C9ORF72 
Acta Neuropathologica  2011;122(6):673-690.
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are part of a disease spectrum associated with TDP-43 pathology. Strong evidence supporting this is the existence of kindreds with family members affected by FTD, ALS or mixed features of FTD and ALS, referred to as FTD-MND. Some of these families have linkage to chromosome 9, with hexanucleotide expansion mutation in a noncoding region of C9ORF72. Discovery of the mutation defines c9FTD/ALS. Prior to discovery of mutations in C9ORF72, it was assumed that TDP-43 pathology in c9FTD/ALS was uniform. In this study, we examined the neuropathology and clinical features of 20 cases of c9FTD/ALS from a brain bank for neurodegenerative disorders. Included are six patients clinically diagnosed with ALS, eight FTD, one FTD-MND and four Alzheimer type dementia. Clinical information was unavailable for one patient. Pathologically, the cases all had TDP-43 pathology, but there were three major pathologic groups: ALS, FTLD-MND and FTLD-TDP. The ALS cases were morphologically similar to typical sporadic ALS with almost no extramotor TDP-43 pathology; all had oligodendroglial cytoplasmic inclusions. The FTLD-MND showed predominantly Mackenzie Type 3 TDP-43 pathology, and all had ALS-like pathology in motor neurons, but more extensive extramotor pathology, with oligodendroglial cytoplasmic inclusions and infrequent hippocampal sclerosis. The FTLD-TDP cases had several features similar to FTLD-TDP due to mutations in the gene for progranulin, including Mackenzie Type 1 TDP-43 pathology with neuronal intranuclear inclusions and hippocampal sclerosis. FTLD-TDP patients were older and some were thought to have Alzheimer type dementia. In addition to the FTD and ALS clinical presentations, the present study shows that c9FTD/ALS can have other presentations, possibly related to age of onset and presence of hippocampal sclerosis. Moreover, there is pathologic heterogeneity not only between ALS and FTLD, but within the FTLD group. Further studies are needed to address the molecular mechanism of clinical and pathological heterogeneity of c9FTD/ALS due to mutations in C9ORF72.
PMCID: PMC3277860  PMID: 22083254
20.  Neuropathology of Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration–Tau (FTLD-Tau) 
A clinically and pathologically heterogeneous type of frontotemporal lobar degeneration has abnormal tau pathology in neurons and glia (FTLD-tau). Familial FTLD-tau is usually due to mutations in the tau gene (MAPT). Even FTLD-tau determined by MAPT mutations ha s clinical and pathologic heterogeneity. Tauopathies are subclassified according to the predominant species of tau that accumulates, with respect to alternative splicing of MAPT, with tau proteins containing 3 (3R) or 4 repeats (4R) of ~ 32 amino acids in the microtubule binding domain. In Pick's disease (PiD), 3R tau predominates, whereas 4R tau is characteristic of corticobasal degeneration (CBD) and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). Depending upon the specific mutation in MAPT, familial FTLD-tau can have 3R, 4R or a combination of 3R and 4R tau. PiD is the least common FTLD-tau characterized by neuronal Pick bodies in a stereotypic neuroanatomical distribution. PSP and CBD are more common than PiD and have extensive clinical and pathologic overlap, with no distinctive clinical syndrome or biomarker that permits their differentiation. Diagnosis rests upon postmortem examination of the brain and demonstration of globose tangles, oligodendroglial coiled bodies and tufted astrocytes in PSP or threads, pretangles and astrocytic plaques in CBD. The anatomical distribution of tau pathology determines the clinical presentation of PSP and CBD, as well as PiD. The basis for this selective cortical vulnerability in FTLD-tau is unknown.
PMCID: PMC3208128  PMID: 21720721
corticobasal degeneration; corticobasal syndrome; frontotemporal lobar degeneration – tau; Pick’s disease; progressive supranuclear palsy; Richardson syndrome
21.  Neuropathological features of corticobasal degeneration presenting as corticobasal syndrome or Richardson syndrome 
Brain  2011;134(11):3264-3275.
Patients with corticobasal degeneration can present with several different clinical syndromes, making ante-mortem diagnosis a challenge. Corticobasal syndrome is the clinical phenotype originally described for corticobasal degeneration, characterized by asymmetric rigidity and apraxia, cortical sensory deficits, dystonia and myoclonus. Some patients do not develop these features, but instead have clinical features consistent with the Richardson syndrome presentation of progressive supranuclear palsy, characterized by postural instability, early unexplained falls, vertical supranuclear gaze palsy, symmetric motor disability and dysphagia. The aim of this study was to identify differences in corticobasal degeneration presenting with corticobasal syndrome (n = 11) or Richardson syndrome (n = 15) with respect to demographic, clinical and neuropathological features. Corticobasal degeneration cases were also compared with patients with pathologically proven progressive supranuclear palsy with Richardson syndrome (n = 15). Cases with corticobasal degeneration, regardless of presentation, shared histopathological and tau biochemical characteristics, but they had differing densities of tau pathology in neuroanatomical regions that correlated with their clinical presentation. In particular, those with corticobasal syndrome had greater tau pathology in the primary motor and somatosensory cortices and putamen, while those with Richardson syndrome had greater tau pathology in limbic and hindbrain structures. Compared with progressive supranuclear palsy, patients with corticobasal degeneration and Richardson syndrome had less neuronal loss in the subthalamic nucleus, but more severe neuronal loss in the medial substantia nigra and greater atrophy of the anterior corpus callosum. Clinically, they had more cognitive impairment and frontal behavioural dysfunction. The results suggest that Richardson syndrome can be a clinicopathological presentation of corticobasal degeneration. Atrophy of anterior corpus callosum may be a potential neuroimaging marker to differentiate corticobasal degeneration from progressive supranuclear palsy in patients with Richardson syndrome.
PMCID: PMC3212714  PMID: 21933807
pathology; immunocytochemistry; progressive supranuclear palsy; tau protein; corticobasal degeneration
22.  Neuropathologically defined subtypes of Alzheimer's disease with distinct clinical characteristics: A retrospective study 
Lancet neurology  2011;10(9):785-796.
Neurofibrillary pathology has a stereotypic progression in Alzheimer's disease (AD) that is encapsulated in the Braak staging scheme. Some AD cases do not fit the Braak staging scheme and are considered atypical. The purpose of this study was to compare clinical and pathological features of typical AD with atypical AD that had either hippocampal sparing (HpSp) and limbic-predominant (LP) neurofibrillary pathology.
A mathematical algorithm was devised to classify AD cases into typical, HpSp and LP according to the density and distribution of neurofibrillary tangle (NFT) counts from thioflavin S fluorescent microscopy in three cortical regions and two Hp sectors. The algorithm was applied to NFT counts of 889 cases of AD (409 men and 480 women; age at death: 37-103 years). Cases so classified were compared on clinical, demographic, pathological and genetic grounds. An independent series of 113 cases of AD were similarly evaluated to validate findings from the initial cohort.
In comparison to typical AD, HpSp (n=97) had higher NFT densities in cortical areas and lower NFT densities in hippocampus, while LP (n=127) had lower NFT densities in cortical areas and higher NFT densities in the Hp. HpSp had less Hp atrophy than typical AD (11%) and LP (14%). HpSp were younger, with a higher proportion of men, whereas LP was older, with a higher proportion of women. MAPT H1H1 genotype was more frequent in LP compared with HpSp, but not between LP and typical AD. APOE ε4 allele status differed among AD subtypes only when age of onset was considered. Clinical presentation, age of onset, disease duration, and rate of decline differed among the AD subtypes. The findings were confirmed in a replication cohort.
Our data supports the hypothesis of distinct clinicopathologic subtypes of AD. HpSp and LP AD account for about 25% of AD and are important to consider in clinical, genetic, biomarker and treatment studies.
PMCID: PMC3175379  PMID: 21802369
Alzheimer disease; APOE; digital microscopy; hippocampus; MAPT; neurofibrillary tangles; thioflavin S fluorescent microscopy
23.  Disease specificity and pathologic progression of tau pathology in brainstem nuclei of Alzheimer’s disease and progressive supranuclear palsy 
Neuroscience letters  2011;491(2):122-126.
Previous studies have shown tau pathology in the inferior colliculus (IC) and superior colliculus (SC) in Alzheimer’s disease (AD); however, it has not been compared to other tauopathies, such as progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), or characterized with respect to progression of tau pathology in AD. The main purpose of this study was to investigate frequency, neuroanatomical selectivity and disease specificity of tau pathology in visual and auditory nuclei (SC and lateral geniculate body (LGB); IC and medial geniculate body (MGB), respectively). We measured phospho-tau burden with immunohistochemistry and image analysis in 26 cases of AD, 37 PSP and 11 normal controls. Tau burden was also assessed in two unrelated brainstem nuclei (substantia nigra (SN) and pedunculopontine nucleus (PPN)) of the same cases. We found tau burden to be greater in the SC of PSP compared to AD and controls. Conversely, tau burden was greater in the IC of AD compared to PSP and controls. The MGB and LGB had sparse tau pathology in both AD and PSP. This disease selectivity parallels known deficits in visual reflexes in PSP and auditory reflexes in AD. Tau burden was greater in the SC, IC, and PPN in both PSP and AD compared to controls, and greater in the SN in PSP compared to AD and controls. Although present at early Braak neurofibrillary tangle stages, the SC, IC, PPN and SN did not accumulate tau consistently until later stages. These findings support a concept of tau pathology affecting the brainstem at mid-to-late stage AD.
PMCID: PMC3044604  PMID: 21236314
colliculi; geniculate bodies; substantia nigra; pedunculopontine nucleus; Alzheimer’s disease; progressive supranuclear palsy; tau
24.  Characterization of frontotemporal dementia and/or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis associated with the GGGGCC repeat expansion in C9ORF72 
Brain  2012;135(3):765-783.
Numerous kindreds with familial frontotemporal dementia and/or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis have been linked to chromosome 9, and an expansion of the GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat in the non-coding region of chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 has recently been identified as the pathogenic mechanism. We describe the key characteristics in the probands and their affected relatives who have been evaluated at Mayo Clinic Rochester or Mayo Clinic Florida in whom the hexanucleotide repeat expansion were found. Forty-three probands and 10 of their affected relatives with DNA available (total 53 subjects) were shown to carry the hexanucleotide repeat expansion. Thirty-six (84%) of the 43 probands had a familial disorder, whereas seven (16%) appeared to be sporadic. Among examined subjects from the 43 families (n = 63), the age of onset ranged from 33 to 72 years (median 52 years) and survival ranged from 1 to 17 years, with the age of onset <40 years in six (10%) and >60 in 19 (30%). Clinical diagnoses among examined subjects included behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia with or without parkinsonism (n = 30), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (n = 18), frontotemporal dementia/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with or without parkinsonism (n = 12), and other various syndromes (n = 3). Parkinsonism was present in 35% of examined subjects, all of whom had behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia or frontotemporal dementia/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis as the dominant clinical phenotype. No subject with a diagnosis of primary progressive aphasia was identified with this mutation. Incomplete penetrance was suggested in two kindreds, and the youngest generation had significantly earlier age of onset (>10 years) compared with the next oldest generation in 11 kindreds. Neuropsychological testing showed a profile of slowed processing speed, complex attention/executive dysfunction, and impairment in rapid word retrieval. Neuroimaging studies showed bilateral frontal abnormalities most consistently, with more variable degrees of parietal with or without temporal changes; no case had strikingly focal or asymmetric findings. Neuropathological examination of 14 patients revealed a range of transactive response DNA binding protein molecular weight 43 pathology (10 type A and four type B), as well as ubiquitin-positive cerebellar granular neuron inclusions in all but one case. Motor neuron degeneration was detected in nine patients, including five patients without ante-mortem signs of motor neuron disease. While variability exists, most cases with this mutation have a characteristic spectrum of demographic, clinical, neuropsychological, neuroimaging and especially neuropathological findings.
PMCID: PMC3286335  PMID: 22366793
frontotemporal dementia; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; motor neuron disease; TDP-43; neurogenetics; chromosome 9
25.  Functional Impact of White Matter Hyperintensities in Cognitively Normal Elderly 
Archives of neurology  2010;67(11):1379-1385.
To investigate the impact white matter hyperintensities (WMH) detected on MRI have on motor dysfunction and cognitive impairment in non-demented elderly subjects.
Cross-sectional study.
Population-based study on the incidence and prevalence of cognitive impairment in Olmsted County, MN.
A total of 148 non-demented elderly (65 males) ranging in age from 73 to 91 years.
Main Outcome Measures
We measured the percentage of the total white matter volume classified as WMH (WMHp) in a priori defined brain regions (i.e. frontal, temporal, parietal, occipital, periventricular or subcortical). Motor impairment was evaluated qualitatively using the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) summary measures of motor skills and quantitatively using a digitized portable walkway system. Four cognitive domains were evaluated using z-scores of memory, language, executive function, and visuospatial reasoning.
A higher WMHp in all regions except occipital was associated with lower executive function z-score (p-value<0.01). A higher WMHp in all regions, but most strongly for parietal lobe, correlated with higher gait/postural-stability/posture UPDRS sum (p-value<0.01). A higher WMHp whether periventricular, subcortical or lobar correlated with reduced velocity (p-value<0.001).
We conclude that executive function is the primary cognitive domain affected by WMH burden. The data suggests that WMH in the parietal lobe are chiefly responsible for reduced balance and postural support compared to the other three lobes and may alter integration of sensory information via parietal lobe dysfunction in the aging brain. It is of interest that parietal WM changes were not the predominant correlate with motor speed, lending evidence to a global involvement of neural networks in gait velocity.
PMCID: PMC3025610  PMID: 21060015

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