Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) may appear to be familial or sporadic, with recognised dominant and recessive inheritance in a proportion of cases. Sporadic ALS may be caused by rare homozygous recessive mutations. We studied patients and controls from the UK and a multinational pooled analysis of GWAS data on homozygosity in ALS to determine any potential recessive variant leading to the disease. Six-hundred and twenty ALS and 5169 controls were studied in the UK cohort. A total of 7646 homozygosity segments with length >2 Mb were identified, and 3568 rare segments remained after filtering ‘common' segments. The mean total of the autosomal genome with homozygosity segments was longer in ALS than in controls (unfiltered segments, P=0.05). Two-thousand and seventeen ALS and 6918 controls were studied in the pooled analysis. There were more regions of homozygosity segments per case (P=1 × 10−5), a greater proportion of cases harboured homozygosity (P=2 × 10−5), a longer average length of segment (P=1 × 10−5), a longer total genome coverage (P=1 × 10−5), and a higher rate of these segments overlapped with RefSeq gene regions (P=1 × 10−5), in ALS patients than controls. Positive associations were found in three regions. The most significant was in the chromosome 21 SOD1 region, and also chromosome 1 2.9–4.8 Mb, and chromosome 5 in the 65 Mb region. There are more than twenty potential genes in these regions. These findings point to further possible rare recessive genetic causes of ALS, which are not identified as common variants in GWAS.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; homozygosity; recessive
MATR3 is an RNA/DNA binding protein that interacts with TDP-43, a major disease protein linked to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and fronto-temporal dementia. Using exome sequencing, we identified mutations in MATR3 in ALS kindreds. We also observed MATR3 pathology in the spinal cords of ALS cases with and without MATR3 mutations. Our data provide additional evidence supporting the role of aberrant RNA processing in motor neuron degeneration.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) may appear to be familial or sporadic, with recognized dominant and recessive inheritance in a proportion of cases. Sporadic ALS may be caused by rare homozygous recessive mutations. We studied patients and controls from the UK and a multinational pooled analysis of GWAS data on homozygosity in ALS to determine any potential recessive variant leading to the disease. 620 ALS and 5169 controls were studied in the UK cohort. A total of 7646 homozygosity segments with length >2Mb were identified, and 3568 rare segments remained after filtering “common” segments. The mean total of the autosomal genome with homozygosity segments was longer in ALS than in controls (unfiltered segments, p=0.05). 2017 ALS and 6918 controls were studied in the pooled analysis. There were more regions of homozygosity segments per case (p=1×10−5), a greater proportion of cases harboured homozygosity (p=2×10−5), a longer average length of segment (p=1×10−5), a longer total genome coverage (p=1×10−5), and a higher rate of these segments overlapped with RefSeq gene regions (p=1×10−5), in ALS patients than controls. Positive associations were found in three regions. The most significant was in the chromosome 21 SOD1 region, and also chromosome 1 2.9Mb to 4.8Mb, and chromosome 5 in the 65Mb region. There are more than twenty potential genes in these regions. These findings point to further possible rare recessive genetic causes of ALS which are not identified as common variants in GWAS.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; homozygosity; genetics; recessive
Based on our previous finding of the p.A382T founder mutation in ALS patients with concomitant parkinsonism in the Sardinian population, we hypothesized that the same variant may underlie PD and/or other forms of degenerative parkinsonism on this Mediterranean island.
We screened a cohort of 611 patients with PD (544 cases) and other forms of degenerative parkinsonism (67 cases), and 604 unrelated controls for the c.1144G>A (p.A382T) missense mutation of the TARDBP gene.
The p.A382T mutation was identified in 9 patients with parkinsonism. Of these, 5 (0.9% of PD patients) presented a typical PD (2 with familiar forms), while 4 patients (6.0% of all other forms of parkinsonism) presented a peculiar clinical presentation quite different from classical atypical parkinsonism with an overlap of extrapyramidal-pyramidal-cognitive clinical signs. The mutation was found in 8 Sardinian controls (1.3%) consistent with a founder mutation in the island population.
Our findings suggest that the clinical presentation of the p.A382T TARDBP gene mutation may include forms of parkinsonism in which the extrapyramidal signs are the crucial core of the disease at onset. These forms can present PSP or CBD-like clinical signs, with bulbar and/or extrabulbar pyramidal signs and cognitive impairment. No evidence of association has been found between TARDBP gene mutation and typical PD.
TARDBP gene mutation; degenerative parkinsonism; TDP-43 Proteinopathies; Sardinia
The common variant rs12608932, located within an intron of UNC13A gene on chromosome 19p13.3, has been suggested to influence susceptibility to ALS, as well as survival, in patients of north European descent. To examine this possibility further, we evaluated the association of rs12608932 with susceptibility and survival in a population-based cohort of 500 Italian ALS patients and 1,457 Italian control samples. Although rs12608932 was not associated to ALS susceptibility in our series (p=0.124), it was significantly associated with survival under the recessive model (median survival for AA/AC genotypes = 3.5 years [IQR 2.2–6.4]; CC = 2.5 years [IQR 1.6–4.2]; p=0.017). Furthermore, rs12608932 genotype remained an independent prognostic factor in Cox multivariable analysis adjusting for other factors known to influence survival (p=0.023). Overall, minor allele carrier status of rs12608932 was strongly associated with an ~1-year reduction of survival in ALS patients, making it a significant determinant of phenotype variation. The identification of UNC13A as a modifier of prognosis among sporadic ALS patients potentially provides a new therapeutic target aimed at slowing disease progression.
This is a cross-sectional study aimed at investigating cognitive performances in patients with primary lateral sclerosis (PLS) and using diffusion tensor (DT) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine the topographical distribution of microstructural white matter (WM) damage in patients with or without cognitive deficits.
DT MRI scans were obtained from 21 PLS patients and 35 age- and sex-matched healthy controls. All PLS patients underwent a comprehensive neuropsychological battery. Tract-based-spatial-statistics (TBSS) was used to perform a whole-brain voxel-wise analysis of fractional anisotropy (FA), axial, radial (radD) and mean diffusivity (MD).
Ten PLS patients had abnormal scores in at least one neuropsychological test (PLS with cognitive deficits, PLS-cd). Compared with healthy controls and cognitively unimpaired PLS patients (PLS-cu), PLS-cd cases showed decreased FA and increased MD and radD in the corticospinal tract (CST), corpus callosum, brainstem, anterior limb of internal capsule, superior and inferior longitudinal fasciculi, fornix, thalamic radiations, and parietal lobes, bilaterally. Compared with healthy controls, PLS-cd patients showed further decreased FA and increased radD in the cerebellar WM, bilaterally. Compared with controls, PLS-cu patients showed decreased FA in the mid-body of corpus callosum. In PLS, executive and language test scores correlated with WM damage.
This is the first study evaluating the relationship between cognitive performance and WM tract damage in PLS patients. PLS can be associated with a multi-domain cognitive impairment. WM damage to interhemispheric, limbic and major associative WM tracts seem to be the structural correlate of cognitive abnormalities in these patients.
To assess the frequency and clinical characteristics of patients with mutations of major amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) genes in a prospectively ascertained, population-based epidemiologic series of cases.
The study population includes all ALS cases diagnosed in Piemonte, Italy, from January 2007 to June 2011. Mutations of SOD1, TARDBP, ANG, FUS, OPTN, and C9ORF72 have been assessed.
Out of the 475 patients included in the study, 51 (10.7%) carried a mutation of an ALS-related gene (C9ORF72, 32; SOD1, 10; TARDBP, 7; FUS, 1; OPTN, 1; ANG, none). A positive family history for ALS or frontotemporal dementia (FTD) was found in 46 (9.7%) patients. Thirty-one (67.4%) of the 46 familial cases and 20 (4.7%) of the 429 sporadic cases had a genetic mutation. According to logistic regression modeling, besides a positive family history for ALS or FTD, the chance to carry a genetic mutation was related to the presence of comorbid FTD (odds ratio 3.5; p = 0.001), and age at onset ≤54 years (odds ratio 1.79; p = 0.012).
We have found that ∼11% of patients with ALS carry a genetic mutation, with C9ORF72 being the commonest genetic alteration. Comorbid FTD or a young age at onset are strong indicators of a possible genetic origin of the disease.
We recently reported that mutations in the VCP gene are a cause of 1–2% of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) cases, but their role in the pathogenesis of sporadic ALS is unclear. We undertook mutational screening of VCP in 701 sporadic ALS cases. Three pathogenic variants (p.Arg159Cys, p.Asn387Thr, and p.R662C) were found in three US cases, each of whom presented with progressive upper and lower motor neuron signs consistent with definite ALS by El Escorial diagnostic criteria. Our data indicate that VCP mutations may underlie apparently sporadic ALS, but account for less than 1% of this form of disease.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; valosin-containing protein; mutations; sporadic disease
It has been recently reported that a large proportion of patients with familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (familial ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) are associated with a hexanucleotide (GGGGCC) repeat expansion in the first intron of C9ORF72. We have assessed 1,757 Italian sporadic ALS cases, 133 from Sardinia, 101 from Sicily, and 1,523 from mainland Italy. Sixty (3.7%) of 1,624 mainland Italians and Sicilians and 9 (6.8%) of the 133 Sardinian sporadic ALS cases carried the pathogenic repeat expansion. None of the 619 regionally-matched control samples (1,238 chromosomes) carried the expansion. Twenty-five cases (36.2%) had behavioral FTD in addition to ALS. FTD or unspecified dementia was also detected in 19 pedigrees (27.5%) in first-degree relatives of ALS patients. Cases carrying the C9ORF72 hexanucleotide expansion survived one year less than cases who did not carry this mutation. In conclusion, we found that C9ORF72 hexanucloetide repeat expansions represents a sizeable proportion of apparent sporadic ALS in the Italian and Sardinian population, representing by far the commonest mutation in Italy and the second more common in Sardinia.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; C9ORF72; frontotemporal dementia; survival
Valosin-containing protein (VCP) is a highly expressed member of the type II AAA+ ATPase family. VCP mutations are the cause of inclusion body myopathy, Paget’s disease of the bone, and frontotemporal dementia (IBMPFD) and they account for 1%–2% of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Using fibroblasts from patients carrying three independent pathogenic mutations in the VCP gene, we show that VCP deficiency causes profound mitochondrial uncoupling leading to decreased mitochondrial membrane potential and increased mitochondrial oxygen consumption. This mitochondrial uncoupling results in a significant reduction of cellular ATP production. Decreased ATP levels in VCP-deficient cells lower their energy capacity, making them more vulnerable to high energy-demanding processes such as ischemia. Our findings propose a mechanism by which pathogenic VCP mutations lead to cell death.
► VCP deficiency is associated with mitochondrial depolarization ► VCP deficiency leads to increased mitochondrial respiration and uncoupling ► ATP levels are decreased in VCP-deficient cells due to lower ATP production
In this study, Bartolome et al. show that three independent pathogenic VCP mutations induce mitochondrial uncoupling, resulting in low cellular ATP production, rendering the cells more susceptible to cell death under stress-induced ischemic conditions.
There is increasing evidence that common genetic risk factors underlie frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Recently, mutations in the sequestosome 1 (SQSTM1) gene, which encodes p62 protein, have been reported in patients with ALS. P62 is a multifunctional adapter protein mainly involved in selective autophagy, oxidative stress response, and cell signaling pathways. The purpose of our study was to evaluate the frequency of SQSTM1 mutations in a dataset of unrelated patients with FTLD or ALS, in comparison with healthy controls and patients with Paget disease of bone (PDB).
Promoter region and all exons of SQSTM1 were sequenced in a large group of subjects, including patients with FTLD or ALS, healthy controls, and patients with PDB. The clinical characteristics of patients with FTLD or ALS with gene mutations were examined.
We identified 6 missense mutations in the coding region of SQSTM1 in patients with either FTLD or ALS, none of which were found in healthy controls or patients with PDB. In silico analysis suggested a pathogenetic role for these mutations. Furthermore, 7 novel noncoding SQSTM1 variants were found in patients with FTLD and patients with ALS, including 4 variations in the promoter region.
SQSTM1 mutations are present in patients with FTLD and patients with ALS. Additional studies are warranted in order to better investigate the role of p62 in the pathogenesis of both FTLD and ALS.
A hexanucleotide repeat expansion in the C9ORF72 gene has recently been shown to cause a large proportion of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and fronto-temporal dementia (FTD).
We screened 4,448 patients diagnosed with ALS and 1,425 patients diagnosed with FTD drawn from diverse populations for the hexanucleotide expansion using a repeat-primed PCR assay. ALS and FTD were diagnosed according to the El Escorial and Lund-Manchester criteria respectively. Familial status was based on self-reported family history of similar neurodegenerative diseases at the time of sample collection. Haplotype data of 262 patients carrying the expansion were compared with the known Finnish founder risk haplotype across the chromosomal locus. Age-related penetrance was calculated by the Kaplan-Meier method using data from 603 individuals carrying the expansion.
The mutation was observed among 7·0% (n = 236 of 3,377) of Caucasians, 4·1% (n = 2 of 49) of African-Americans, and 8·3% (n = 6 of 72) of Hispanic individuals diagnosed with sporadic ALS, whereas the rate was 6·0% (n = 59 of 981) among Caucasians diagnosed with sporadic FTD. Among Asians, 5·0% (n = 1 of 20) of familial ALS and 66·6% (n = 2 of 3) of familial FTD cases carried the repeat expansion. In contrast, mutations were not observed among patients of Native American (n = 3 sporadic ALS), Indian (n = 31 sporadic ALS, n = 31 sporadic FTD), and Pacific Islander (n = 90 sporadic ALS) ethnicity. All patients with the repeat expansion carried, either partially or fully, the founder haplotype suggesting that the expansion occurred on a single occasion in the past (~1,500 years ago). The pathogenic expansion was non-penetrant below 35 years of age, increasing to 50·0% penetrance by 58 years of age, and was almost fully penetrant by 80 years of age.
We confirm that a common single Mendelian genetic lesion is implicated in a large proportion of sporadic and familial ALS and FTD. Testing for this pathogenic expansion will be important in the management and genetic counseling of patients with these fatal neurodegenerative diseases.
Influenza vaccination has been implicated in Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS) although the evidence for this link is controversial. A case–control study was conducted between October 2010 and May 2011 in seven Italian Regions to explore the relation between influenza vaccination and GBS. The study included 176 GBS incident cases aged ≥18 years from 86 neurological centers. Controls were selected among patients admitted for acute conditions to the Emergency Department of the same hospital as cases. Each control was matched to a case by sex, age, Region and admission date. Two different analyses were conducted: a matched case–control analysis and a self-controlled case series analysis (SCCS). Case–control analysis included 140 cases matched to 308 controls. The adjusted matched odds ratio (OR) for GBS occurrence within 6 weeks after influenza vaccination was 3.8 (95 % CI: 1.3, 10.5). A much stronger association with gastrointestinal infections (OR = 23.8; 95 % CI 7.3, 77.6) and influenza-like illness or upper respiratory tract infections (OR = 11.5; 95 % CI 5.6, 23.5) was highlighted. The SCCS analysis included all 176 GBS cases. Influenza vaccination was associated with GBS, with a relative risk of 2.1 (95 % CI 1.1, 3.9). According to these results the attributable risk in adults ranges from two to five GBS cases per 1,000,000 vaccinations.
Influenza vaccination; Guillain-Barrè Syndrome; Case–control study; Self controlled case series
A large hexanucleotide (GGGGCC) repeat expansion in the first intron of C9ORF72, a gene located on chromosome 9p21, has been recently reported to be responsible for ∼40% of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases of European ancestry. The aim of the current article was to describe the phenotype of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases carrying the expansion by providing a detailed clinical description of affected cases from representative multi-generational kindreds, and by analysing the age of onset, gender ratio and survival in a large cohort of patients with familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. We collected DNA and analysed phenotype data for 141 index Italian familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases (21 of Sardinian ancestry) and 41 German index familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases. Pathogenic repeat expansions were detected in 45 (37.5%) patients from mainland Italy, 12 (57.1%) patients of Sardinian ancestry and nine (22.0%) of the 41 German index familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases. The disease was maternally transmitted in 27 (49.1%) pedigrees and paternally transmitted in 28 (50.9%) pedigrees (P = non-significant). On average, children developed disease 7.0 years earlier than their parents [children: 55.8 years (standard deviation 7.9), parents: 62.8 (standard deviation 10.9); P = 0.003]. Parental phenotype influenced the type of clinical symptoms manifested by the child: of the 13 cases where the affected parent had an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis–frontotemporal dementia or frontotemporal dementia, the affected child also developed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis–frontotemporal dementia in nine cases. When compared with patients carrying mutations of other amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-related genes, those with C9ORF72 expansion had commonly a bulbar onset (42.2% compared with 25.0% among non-C9ORF72 expansion cases, P = 0.03) and cognitive impairment (46.7% compared with 9.1% among non-C9ORF72 expansion cases, P = 0.0001). Median survival from symptom onset among cases carrying C9ORF72 repeat expansion was 3.2 years lower than that of patients carrying TARDBP mutations (5.0 years; 95% confidence interval: 3.6–7.2) and longer than those with FUS mutations (1.9 years; 95% confidence interval: 1.7–2.1). We conclude that C9ORF72 hexanucleotide repeat expansions were the most frequent mutation in our large cohort of patients with familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis of Italian, Sardinian and German ancestry. Together with mutation of SOD1, TARDBP and FUS, mutations of C9ORF72 account for ∼60% of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in Italy. Patients with C9ORF72 hexanucleotide repeat expansions present some phenotypic differences compared with patients with mutations of other genes or with unknown mutations, namely a high incidence of bulbar-onset disease and comorbidity with frontotemporal dementia. Their pedigrees typically display a high frequency of cases with pure frontotemporal dementia, widening the concept of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; familial ALS, C9ORF72 gene; phenotype–genotype correlation
TAR DNA-binding protein 43, encoded by the TARDBP gene, has been identified as the major pathological protein of frontotemporal lobar dementia (FTLD) with or without amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and sporadic ALS. Subsequently, mutations in the TARDBP gene have been detected in 2% to 3% of patients with ALS (both familial and sporadic ALS). However, to our knowledge, there is only 1 description of 2 patients with FTLD and TARDBP gene mutations who later developed motor neuron disease.
To describe cognitive abnormalities in 3 Italian families with familial ALS and TARDBP gene mutations.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Genetic, neuropsychological, and neuroimaging analyses in 36 patients with familial non–superoxide dismutase 1 gene (SOD1) ALS and 280 healthy controls.
Main Outcome Measure
We identified 3 index cases of familial ALS carrying the p.Ala382Thr missense mutation of the TARDBP gene and with clinical, neuroimaging, and neuropsychological features of FTLD.
The p.Ala382Thr missense mutation of the TARDBP gene was absent in the 280 controls. It was present in all affected members of the 3 families for whom DNA was available. All affected members of the 3 families developed FTLD after the onset of ALS, confirmed by neuropsychological testing and hypometabolism in frontal associative areas assessed with fludeoxyglucose F 18 positron emission tomography and computed tomography.
Three apparently unrelated families with familial ALS carrying the p.Ala382Thr TARDBP missense mutation developed FTLD. In these families, FTLD co-segregates with ALS. Patients with ALS carrying TARDBP mutations may develop FTLD.
Mutations in the valosin-containing protein gene (VCP) have been identified in neurological disorders (IBMPFD and ALS) and are thought to play a role in the clearance of abnormally folded proteins. Parkinsonism has been noted in kindreds with VCP mutations. Based on this, we hypothesized that mutations in VCP may also contribute to idiopathic PD. We screened the coding region of the VCP gene in a large cohort of 768 late onset PD cases (average age at onset = 70 years), both sporadic and with positive family history. We identified a number of rare single nucleotide changes, including a variant previously described to be pathogenic, but no clear disease-causing variants. We conclude that mutations in VCP are not a common cause for idiopathic PD.
We and others have recently reported an association between ALS and single nucleotide polymorphisms on chromosome 9p21 in several populations. Here we show that the associated haplotype is the same in all populations and that several families previously shown to have genetic linkage to this region also share this haplotype. The most parsimonious explanation of these data is that there is a single founder for this form of disease.
Genetics; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; frontotemporal dementia; Finland
Our objective was to investigate exposure to physical exercise and trauma in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) compared to the general population. Previous studies in this area have yielded conflicting results. Using population-based ALS registries from Italy, the UK and Ireland, newly diagnosed patients with definite, probable or possible ALS were enrolled in a case-control study with two age- and sex-matched controls for each patient. Source, intensity and duration of physical activity and history of trauma were recorded. We here present the results of a pilot investigation. We studied 61 patients and 112 controls. Forty-one per cent of cases and 17.0% of controls (p = 0.001) had blue-collar occupations; 13.1% versus 3.6% reported strenuous physical activity at work (p = 0.05). Compared with controls, ALS patients had a longer exposure to work-related (10.7 vs. 7.3 years; p = 0.02) and sport-related physical exercise (9.6 vs. 5.2 years; p = 0.005). Three patients (0 controls) reported professional sports (p < 0.04). Traumatic events were similar. Blue collar occupation (OR 4.27; 95% CI 1.68–10.88) and duration of sport-related physical exercise (OR 1.03; 95% CI 1.00–1.05) were independent variables in multivariate analysis. We concluded that ALS is associated with physical exercise but not with traumatic events.
To perform an extensive screening for mutations of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)–related genes in a consecutive cohort of Sardinian patients, a genetic isolate phylogenically distinct from other European populations.
Population-based, prospective cohort study.
A total of 135 Sardinian patients with ALS and 156 healthy control subjects of Sardinian origin who were age- and sex-matched to patients.
Patients underwent mutational analysis for SOD1, FUS, and TARDBP.
Mutational screening of the entire cohort found that 39 patients (28.7%) carried the c.1144G A (p.A382T) missense mutation of the TARDBP gene. Of these, 15 had familial ALS (belonging to 10 distinct pedigrees) and 24 had apparently sporadic ALS. None of the 156 age-, sex-, and ethnicity-matched controls carried the pathogenic variant. Genotype data obtained for 5 ALS cases carrying the p.A382T mutation found that they shared a 94–single-nucleotide polymorphism risk haplotype that spanned 663 Kb across the TARDBP locus on chromosome 1p36.22. Three patients with ALS who carry the p.A382T mutation developed extrapyramidal symptoms several years after their initial presentation with motor weakness.
The TARDBP p.A382T missense mutation accounts for approximately one-third of all ALS cases in this island population. These patients share a large risk haplotype across the TARDBP locus, indicating that they have a common ancestor.
Effective treatments for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) have remained elusive. Only riluzole, a drug thought to affect glutamate metabolism, improves survival albeit to modest extent. Explanations for the negative results of therapeutic trials include a likely heterogeneity, both in disease susceptibility and pathogenic mechanisms, and faulty methodology of clinical trials. Further understanding of these factors will lead to improvements in patient stratification, and in the design of future clinical trials.
We have recently published data showing that a founder mutation of the TARDBP gene (p.A382T) accounts for approximately one third of ALS cases on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia (Chiò et al, 2011). In that report, we identified 53 years-old man carrying a homozygous A382T missense mutation of the TARDBP gene with a complex neurological syndrome including ALS, parkinsonian features, motor and vocal tics, and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Due to the uniqueness of this case, here we provide a detailed clinical description, as well as neurophysiological, neuropsychological and neuroimaging data for that case and his extended family.
The chromosome 9p21 amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-frontotemporal dementia (ALS-FTD) locus contains one of the last major unidentified autosomal dominant genes underlying these common neurodegenerative diseases. We have previously shown that a founder haplotype, covering the MOBKL2b, IFNK and C9ORF72 genes, is present in the majority of cases linked to this region. Here we show that there is a large hexanucleotide (GGGGCC) repeat expansion in the first intron of C9ORF72 on the affected haplotype. This repeat expansion segregates perfectly with disease in the Finnish population, underlying 46.0% of familial ALS and 21.1% of sporadic ALS in that population. Taken together with the D90A SOD1 mutation, 87% of familial ALS in Finland is now explained by a simple monogenic cause. The repeat expansion is also present in one third of familial ALS cases of outbred European descent making it the most common genetic cause of these fatal neurodegenerative diseases identified to date.
We aimed to accurately estimate the frequency of a hexanucleotide repeat expansion in C9orf72 that has been associated with a large proportion of cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD).
We screened 4448 patients diagnosed with ALS (El Escorial criteria) and 1425 patients with FTD (Lund-Manchester criteria) from 17 regions worldwide for the GGGGCC hexanucleotide expansion using a repeat-primed PCR assay. We assessed familial disease status on the basis of self-reported family history of similar neurodegenerative diseases at the time of sample collection. We compared haplotype data for 262 patients carrying the expansion with the known Finnish founder risk haplotype across the chromosomal locus. We calculated age-related penetrance using the Kaplan-Meier method with data for 603 individuals with the expansion.
In patients with sporadic ALS, we identified the repeat expansion in 236 (7·0%) of 3377 white individuals from the USA, Europe, and Australia, two (4·1%) of 49 black individuals from the USA, and six (8·3%) of 72 Hispanic individuals from the USA. The mutation was present in 217 (39·3%) of 552 white individuals with familial ALS from Europe and the USA. 59 (6·0%) of 981 white Europeans with sporadic FTD had the mutation, as did 99 (24·8%) of 400 white Europeans with familial FTD. Data for other ethnic groups were sparse, but we identified one Asian patient with familial ALS (from 20 assessed) and two with familial FTD (from three assessed) who carried the mutation. The mutation was not carried by the three Native Americans or 360 patients from Asia or the Pacific Islands with sporadic ALS who were tested, or by 41 Asian patients with sporadic FTD. All patients with the repeat expansion had (partly or fully) the founder haplotype, suggesting a one-off expansion occurring about 1500 years ago. The pathogenic expansion was non-penetrant in individuals younger than 35 years, 50% penetrant by 58 years, and almost fully penetrant by 80 years.
A common Mendelian genetic lesion in C9orf72 is implicated in many cases of sporadic and familial ALS and FTD. Testing for this pathogenic expansion should be considered in the management and genetic counselling of patients with these fatal neurodegenerative diseases.
Full funding sources listed at end of paper (see Acknowledgments).
Mutations in the Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD1), transactive response (TAR)-DNA binding protein (TARDBP) and fused in sarcoma (FUS) genes account for approximately one third of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) cases. Mutations in these genes have been found in 1 to 2% of apparently sporadic cases. We present the first case of an ALS patient carrying a de novo missense mutation of the FUS gene (c.1561C>T, p.R521C). This report highlights the importance of screening ALS patients, both familial and sporadic, for FUS mutations and also suggests that de novo mutations is a relevant mechanism underlying sporadic neurodegenerative disease.