Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disease of motor neurons. Single-nucleotide polymorphism rs3849942 is associated with ALS, tagging a hexanucleotide repeat mutation in the C9orf72 gene. It is possible that there is more than 1 disease-causing genetic variation at this locus, in which case association might remain after removal of cases carrying the mutation. DNA from patients with ALS was therefore tested for the mutation. Genome-wide association testing was performed first using all samples, and then restricting the analysis to samples not carrying the mutation. rs3849942 and rs903603 were strongly associated with ALS when all samples were included (rs3849942, p = [3 × 2] × 10−6, rank 7/442,057; rs903603, p = [7 × 6] × 10−8, rank 2/442,057). Removal of the mutation-carrying cases resulted in loss of association for rs3849942 (p = [2 × 6] × 10−3, rank 1225/442,068), but had little effect on rs903603 (p = [1 × 9] × 10−5, rank 8/442,068). Those with a risk allele of rs903603 had an excess of apparent homozygosity for wild type repeat alleles, consistent with polymerase chain reaction failure of 1 allele because of massive repeat expansion. These results indicate residual association at the C9orf72 locus suggesting a second disease-causing repeat mutation.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Genetics; C9orf72; Hexanucleotide repeat mutation; GWAS; Residual association
Compelling evidence indicates that oxidative stress contributes to motor neuron injury in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), but antioxidant therapies have not yet achieved therapeutic benefit in the clinic. The nuclear erythroid 2-related-factor 2 (Nrf2) transcription factor is a key regulator of an important neuroprotective response by driving the expression of multiple cytoprotective genes via its interaction with the antioxidant response element (ARE). Dysregulation of the Nrf2-ARE system has been identified in ALS models and human disease. Taking the Nrf2-ARE pathway as an attractive therapeutic target for neuroprotection in ALS, we aimed to identify CNS penetrating, small molecule activators of Nrf2-mediated transcription in a library of 2000 drugs and natural products. Compounds were screened extensively for Nrf2 activation, and antioxidant and neuroprotective properties in vitro. S[+]-Apomorphine, a receptor-inactive enantiomer of the clinically approved dopamine-receptor agonist (R[–]-apomorphine), was identified as a nontoxic Nrf2 activating molecule. In vivo S[+]-apomorphine demonstrated CNS penetrance, Nrf2 induction, and significant attenuation of motor dysfunction in the SOD1G93A transgenic mouse model of ALS. S[+]-apomorphine also reduced pathological oxidative stress and improved survival following an oxidative insult in fibroblasts from ALS patients. This molecule emerges as a promising candidate for evaluation as a potential neuroprotective agent in ALS patients in the clinic.
ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; ARE, antioxidant response element; carboxy-H2DCFDA, 6-carboxy-2′,7′-dichlorodihydrofluorescein diacetate; CNS, central nervous system; DCF, dichlorofluorescein; MEFs, mouse embryonic fibroblasts; Nrf2, nuclear erythroid 2-related-factor 2; PBPK, physiologically based pharmacokinetic; Q-RTPCR, quantitative RT-PCR; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; motor neurone disease; Nrf2; preclinical pharmacology; neurodegeneration
Mutations in the transactive response DNA binding protein-43 (TARDBP/TDP-43) gene, which regulates transcription and splicing, causes a familial form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Here, we characterize and report the first tardbp mutation in zebrafish, which introduces a premature stop codon (Y220X), eliminating expression of the Tardbp protein. Another TARDBP ortholog, tardbpl, in zebrafish is shown to encode a Tardbp-like protein which is truncated compared with Tardbp itself and lacks part of the C-terminal glycine-rich domain (GRD). Here, we show that tardbp mutation leads to the generation of a novel tardbpl splice form (tardbpl-FL) capable of making a full-length Tardbp protein (Tardbpl-FL), which compensates for the loss of Tardbp. This finding provides a novel in vivo model to study TDP-43-mediated splicing regulation. Additionally, we show that elimination of both zebrafish TARDBP orthologs results in a severe motor phenotype with shortened motor axons, locomotion defects and death at around 10 days post fertilization. The Tardbp/Tardbpl knockout model generated in this study provides an excellent in vivo system to study the role of the functional loss of Tardbp and its involvement in ALS pathogenesis.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small, abundant RNA molecules that constitute part of the cell's non-coding RNA “dark matter.” In recent years, the discovery of miRNAs has revolutionised the traditional view of gene expression and our understanding of miRNA biogenesis and function has expanded. Altered expression of miRNAs is increasingly recognized as a feature of many disease states, including neurodegeneration. Here, we review the emerging role for miRNA dysfunction in Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Huntington's disease pathogenesis. We emphasize the complex nature of gene regulatory networks and the need for systematic studies, with larger sample cohorts than have so far been reported, to reveal the most important miRNA regulators in disease. Finally, miRNA diversity and their potential to target multiple pathways, offers novel clinical applications for miRNAs as biomarkers and therapeutic agents in neurodegenerative diseases.
microRNA; neurodegeneration; Alzheimer's disease; Parkinson's disease; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Huntington's disease
A consistent clinical feature of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is the sparing of eye movements and the function of external sphincters, with corresponding preservation of motor neurons in the brainstem oculomotor nuclei, and of Onuf’s nucleus in the sacral spinal cord. Studying the differences in properties of neurons that are vulnerable and resistant to the disease process in ALS may provide insights into the mechanisms of neuronal degeneration, and identify targets for therapeutic manipulation. We used microarray analysis to determine the differences in gene expression between oculomotor and spinal motor neurons, isolated by laser capture microdissection from the midbrain and spinal cord of neurologically normal human controls. We compared these to transcriptional profiles of oculomotor nuclei and spinal cord from rat and mouse, obtained from the GEO omnibus database. We show that oculomotor neurons have a distinct transcriptional profile, with significant differential expression of 1,757 named genes (q < 0.001). Differentially expressed genes are enriched for the functional categories of synaptic transmission, ubiquitin-dependent proteolysis, mitochondrial function, transcriptional regulation, immune system functions, and the extracellular matrix. Marked differences are seen, across the three species, in genes with a function in synaptic transmission, including several glutamate and GABA receptor subunits. Using patch clamp recording in acute spinal and brainstem slices, we show that resistant oculomotor neurons show a reduced AMPA-mediated inward calcium current, and a higher GABA-mediated chloride current, than vulnerable spinal motor neurons. The findings suggest that reduced susceptibility to excitotoxicity, mediated in part through enhanced GABAergic transmission, is an important determinant of the relative resistance of oculomotor neurons to degeneration in ALS.
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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a neurodegenerative disease in which death of motoneurons leads to progressive failure of the neuromuscular system resulting in death frequently within 2–3 years of symptom onset. Focal onset and propagation of the disease symptoms to contiguous motoneuron groups is a striking feature of the human disease progression. Recent work, using mutant superoxide dismutase 1 murine models and in vitro culture systems has indicated that astrocytes are likely to contribute to the propagation of motoneuron injury and disease progression. However, the basis of this astrocyte toxicity and/or failure of motoneuron support has remained uncertain. Using a combination of in vivo and in vitro model systems of superoxide dismutase 1-related amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, linked back to human biosamples, we set out to elucidate how astrocyte properties change in the presence of mutant superoxide dismutase 1 to contribute to motoneuron injury. Gene expression profiling of spinal cord astrocytes from presymptomatic transgenic mice expressing mutant superoxide dismutase 1 revealed two striking changes. First, there was evidence of metabolic dysregulation and, in particular, impairment of the astrocyte lactate efflux transporter, with resultant decrease of spinal cord lactate levels. Second, there was evidence of increased nerve growth factor production and dysregulation of the ratio of pro-nerve growth factor to mature nerve growth factor, favouring p75 receptor expression and activation by neighbouring motoneurons. Functional in vitro studies showed that astrocytes expressing mutant superoxide dismutase 1 are toxic to normal motoneurons. We provide evidence that reduced metabolic support from lactate release and activation of pro-nerve growth factor-p75 receptor signalling are key components of this toxicity. Preservation of motoneuron viability could be achieved by increasing lactate provision to motoneurons, depletion of increased pro-nerve growth factor levels or p75 receptor blockade. These findings are likely to be relevant to human amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, where we have demonstrated increased levels of pro-nerve growth factor in cerebrospinal fluid and increased expression of the p75 receptor by spinal motoneurons. Taken together, these data confirm that altered properties of astrocytes are likely to play a crucial role in the propagation of motoneuron injury in superoxide dismutase 1-related amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and indicate that manipulation of the energy supply to motoneurons as well as inhibition of p75 receptor signalling may represent valuable neuroprotective strategies.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; astrocytes; microarray; lactate; nerve growth factor
The objective of this research was to develop a disease-specific measure for fatigue in patients with motor neurone disease (MND) by generating data that would fit the Rasch measurement model. Fatigue was defined as reversible motor weakness and whole-body tiredness that was predominantly brought on by muscular exertion and was partially relieved by rest.
Qualitative interviews were undertaken to confirm the suitability of a previously identified set of 52 neurological fatigue items as relevant to patients with MND. Patients were recruited from five U.K. MND clinics. Questionnaires were administered during clinic or by post. A sub-sample of patients completed the questionnaire again after 2-4 weeks to assess test-retest validity. Exploratory factor analyses and Rasch analysis were conducted on the item set.
Qualitative interviews with ten MND patients confirmed the suitability of 52 previously identified neurological fatigue items as relevant to patients with MND. 298 patients consented to completing the initial questionnaire including this item set, with an additional 78 patients completing the questionnaire a second time after 4-6 weeks. Exploratory Factor Analysis identified five potential subscales that could be conceptualised as representing: 'Energy', 'Reversible muscular weakness' (shortened to 'Weakness'), 'Concentration', 'Effects of heat' and 'Rest'. Of the original five factors, two factors 'Energy' and 'Weakness' met the expectations of the Rasch model. A higher order fatigue summary scale, consisting of items from the 'Energy' and 'Weakness' subscales, was found to fit the Rasch model and have acceptable unidimensionality. The two scales and the higher order summary scale were shown to fulfil model expectations, including assumptions of unidimensionality, local independency and an absence of differential item functioning.
The Neurological Fatigue Index for MND (NFI-MND) is a simple, easy-to-administer fatigue scale. It consists of an 8-item fatigue summary scale in addition to separate scales for measuring fatigue experienced as reversible muscular weakness and fatigue expressed as feelings of low energy and whole body tiredness. The underlying two factor structure supports the patient concept of fatigue derived from qualitative interviews in this population. All three scales were shown to be reliable and capable of interval level measurement.
Our objective was to establish the pattern of spread in lower limb-onset ALS (contra- versus ipsi-lateral) and its contribution to prognosis within a multivariate model. Pattern of spread was established in 109 sporadic ALS patients with lower limb-onset, prospectively recorded in Oxford and Sheffield tertiary clinics from 2001 to 2008. Survival analysis was by univariate Kaplan-Meier log-rank and multivariate Cox proportional hazards. Variables studied were time to next limb progression, site of next progression, age at symptom onset, gender, diagnostic latency and use of riluzole. Initial progression was either to the contralateral leg (76%) or ipsilateral arm (24%). Factors independently affecting survival were time to next limb progression, age at symptom onset, and diagnostic latency. Time to progression as a prognostic factor was independent of initial direction of spread. In a regression analysis of the deceased, overall survival from symptom onset approximated to two years plus the time interval for initial spread. In conclusion, rate of progression in lower limb-onset ALS is not influenced by whether initial spread is to the contralateral limb or ipsilateral arm. The time interval to this initial spread is a powerful factor in predicting overall survival, and could be used to facilitate decision-making and effective care planning.
Epidemiology; prognostic; survival
The Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) is commonly used to assess symptoms of anxiety and depression in motor neurone disease (MND). The measure has never been specifically validated for use within this population, despite questions raised about the scale's validity. This study seeks to analyse the construct validity of the HADS in MND by fitting its data to the Rasch model.
The scale was administered to 298 patients with MND. Scale assessment included model fit, differential item functioning (DIF), unidimensionality, local dependency and category threshold analysis.
Rasch analyses were carried out on the HADS total score as well as depression and anxiety subscales (HADS-T, D and A respectively). After removing one item from both of the seven item scales, it was possible to produce modified HADS-A and HADS-D scales which fit the Rasch model. An 11-item higher-order HADS-T total scale was found to fit the Rasch model following the removal of one further item.
Our results suggest that a modified HADS-A and HADS-D are unidimensional, free of DIF and have good fit to the Rasch model in this population. As such they are suitable for use in MND clinics or research. The use of the modified HADS-T as a higher-order measure of psychological distress was supported by our data. Revised cut-off points are given for the modified HADS-A and HADS-D subscales.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a rapidly progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterised by loss of motor neurons leading to severe weakness and death from respiratory failure within 3-5 years. Riluzole prolongs survival in ALS. A published report has suggested a dramatic effect of lithium carbonate on survival. 44 patients were studied, with 16 randomly selected to take LiCO3 and riluzole and 28 allocated to take riluzole alone. In the group treated with lithium, no patients had died (i.e., 100% survival) at the end of the study (15 months from entry), compared to 71% surviving in the riluzole-only group. Although the trial can be criticised on several grounds, there is a substantial rationale from other laboratory studies that lithium is worth investigating therapeutically in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
LiCALS is a multi-centre double-blind randomised parallel group controlled trial of the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of lithium carbonate (LiCO3) at doses to achieve stable 'therapeutic' plasma levels (0.4-0.8 mmol/L), plus standard treatment, versus matched placebo plus standard treatment, in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The study will be based in the UK, in partnership with the MND Association and DeNDRoN (the Dementias and Neurodegnerative Diseases Clinical Research Network). 220 patients will be recruited. All patients will be on the standard treatment for ALS of riluzole 100 mg daily. The primary outcome measure will be death from any cause at 18 months defined from the date of randomisation. Secondary outcome measures will be changes in three functional rating scales, the ALS Functional Rating Scale-Revised, The EuroQOL (EQ-5D), and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale.
Eligible patients will have El Escorial Possible, Laboratory-supported Probable, Probable or Definite amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with disease duration between 6 months and 36 months (inclusive), vital capacity ≥ 60% of predicted within 1 month prior to randomisation and age at least18 years.
Patient recruitment began in June 2009 and the last patient is expected to complete the trial protocol in November 2011.
Current controlled trials ISRCTN83178718
Gene expression profiling has been used previously with spinal cord homogenates and laser capture microdissected motor neurons to determine the mechanisms involved in neurodegeneration in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. However, while cellular and animal model work has focused on superoxide dismutase 1-related amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the transcriptional profile of human mutant superoxide dismutase 1 motor neurons has remained undiscovered. The aim of this study was to apply gene expression profiling to laser captured motor neurons from human superoxide dismutase 1-related amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and neurologically normal control cases, in order to determine those pathways dysregulated in human superoxide dismutase 1-related neurodegeneration and to establish potential pathways suitable for therapeutic intervention. Identified targets were then validated in cultured cell models using lentiviral vectors to manipulate the expression of key genes. Microarray analysis identified 1170 differentially expressed genes in spinal cord motor neurons from superoxide dismutase 1-related amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, compared with controls. These genes encoded for proteins in multiple functional categories, including those involved in cell survival and cell death. Further analysis determined that multiple genes involved in the phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase signalling cascade were differentially expressed in motor neurons that survived the disease process. Functional experiments in cultured cells and primary motor neurons demonstrate that manipulating this pathway by reducing the expression of a single upstream target, the negative phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase regulator phosphatase and tensin homology, promotes a marked pro-survival effect. Therefore, these data indicate that proteins in the phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase pathway could represent a target for therapeutic manipulation in motor neuron degeneration.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; SOD1; PTEN; PI3K; AKT
The inflammatory response in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is well documented but the underlying cellular mechanisms have not been fully elucidated. We report that microglia isolated from the mutant human SOD1 G93A transgenic mouse model of ALS, have an increased response to the inflammatory stimulus, lipopolysaccharide. Cell surface area and F4/80 surface marker, both indicators of cell activation, are increased relative to transgenic wild-type human SOD1 microglia (SOD1 WT). Monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), known to be increased in ALS, is produced at 3 fold higher levels by SOD1 G93A than by SOD1 WT microglia, under activating conditions. This novel finding implicates ALS microglia as a source of the increased MCP-1 levels detected in ALS patients and the ALS mouse model.
microglia; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; monocyte chemoattractant protein 1
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is an adult-onset neurodegenerative disease, characterized by progressive dysfunction and death of motor neurons. Although evidence for oxidative stress in ALS pathogenesis is well described, antioxidants have generally shown poor efficacy in animal models and human clinical trials. We have developed an in vitro screening cascade to identify antioxidant molecules capable of rescuing NSC34 motor neuron cells expressing an ALS-associated mutation of superoxide dismutase 1. We have tested known antioxidants and screened a library of 2000 small molecules. The library screen identified 164 antioxidant molecules, which were refined to the 9 most promising molecules in subsequent experiments. Analysis of the in silico properties of hit compounds and a review of published literature on their in vivo effectiveness have enabled us to systematically identify molecules with antioxidant activity combined with chemical properties necessary to penetrate the central nervous system. The top-performing molecules identified include caffeic acid phenethyl ester, esculetin, and resveratrol. These compounds were tested for their ability to rescue primary motor neuron cultures after trophic factor withdrawal, and the mechanisms of action of their antioxidant effects were investigated. Subsequent in vivo studies can be targeted using molecules with the greatest probability of success.
5-LOX, 5-lipoxygenase; AAPH, 2,2′-azobis(2-methylpropionamidine) dihydrochloride; ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; ARE, antioxidant response element; BBB, blood–brain barrier; CAPE, caffeic acid phenethyl ester; CNS, central nervous system; DCF, dichlorofluorescein; DMSO, dimethyl sulfoxide; Esc, esculetin; EthD1, ethidium homodimer-1; EGFP, enhanced green fluorescent protein; LTB4, leukotriene B4; MN, motor neuron; MTT, methylthiazolyldiphenyl tetrazolium bromide; NDGA, nordihydroguaiaretic acid; Nrf2, nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2; OTCA, 2-oxo-l-thiazolidine-4-carboxylic acid; PBS, phosphate-buffered saline; PI, prediction interval; PSA, polar surface area; Res, resveratrol; R-PE, R-phycoerythrin; SOD1, superoxide dismutase 1; TK, thymidine kinase promoter; TRAP, total radical-trapping antioxidant parameter.; Antioxidant; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Mouse; NSC34; Superoxide dismutase; Free radicals
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) has neurotrophic activity which is mediated by its main agonist receptor, VEGFR2. Dysregulation of VEGF causes motor neurone degeneration in a mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and expression of VEGFR2 is reduced in motor neurones and spinal cord of patients with ALS.
We have screened the promoter region and 4 exonic regions of functional significance of the VEGFR2 gene in a UK population of patients with ALS, for mutations and polymorphisms that may affect expression or function of this VEGF receptor.
No mutations were identified in the VEGFR2 gene. We found no association between polymorphisms in the regulatory regions of the VEGFR2 gene and ALS.
Mechanisms other than genetic variation may downregulate expression or function of the VEGFR2 receptor in patients with ALS.
To determine, when, how, and which neurons initiate the onset of pathophysiology in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) using a transgenic mutant sod1 zebrafish model and identify neuroprotective drugs.
Proteinopathies such as ALS involve mutant proteins that misfold and activate the heat shock stress response (HSR). The HSR is indicative of neuronal stress, and we used a fluorescent hsp70-DsRed reporter in our transgenic zebrafish to track neuronal stress and to measure functional changes in neurons and muscle over the course of the disease.
We show that mutant sod1 fish first exhibited the HSR in glycinergic interneurons at 24 hours postfertilization (hpf). By 96 hpf, we observed a significant reduction in spontaneous glycinergic currents induced in spinal motor neurons. The loss of inhibition was followed by increased stress in the motor neurons of symptomatic adults and concurrent morphological changes at the neuromuscular junction (NMJ) indicative of denervation. Riluzole, the only approved ALS drug and apomorphine, an NRF2 activator, reduced the observed early neuronal stress response.
The earliest event in the pathophysiology of ALS in the mutant sod1 zebrafish model involves neuronal stress in inhibitory interneurons, resulting from mutant Sod1 expression. This is followed by a reduction in inhibitory input to motor neurons. The loss of inhibitory input may contribute to the later development of neuronal stress in motor neurons and concurrent inability to maintain the NMJ. Riluzole, the approved drug for use in ALS, modulates neuronal stress in interneurons, indicating a novel mechanism of riluzole action. ANN NEUROL 2013;73:246–258
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the progressive degeneration of motor neurons. Substantial evidence implicates oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction as early events in disease progression. Our aim was to ascertain whether mutation of the SOD1 protein increases metabolic functional susceptibility to oxidative stress. Here we used a motor neuron-like cell line (NSC34) stably transfected with various human mutant SOD1 transgenes (G93A, G37R, H48Q) to investigate the impact of oxidative stress on cell viability and metabolic function within intact cells. NSC34 cells expressing mutant SOD1 showed a dose dependent reduction in cell viability when exposed to oxidative stress induced by hydrogen peroxide, with variation between mutations. The G93A transfectants showed greater cell death and LDH release compared to cells transfected with the other SOD1 mutations, and H48Q showed an accelerated decline at later time points. Differences in mitochondrial bioenergetics, including mitochondrial respiration, coupling efficiency and proton leak, were identified between the mutations, consistent with the differences observed in viability. NSC34 cells expressing G93A SOD1 displayed reduced coupled respiration and mitochondrial membrane potential compared to controls. Furthermore, the G93A mutation had significantly increased metabolic susceptibility to oxidative stress, with hydrogen peroxide increasing ROS production, reducing both cellular oxygen consumption and glycolytic flux in the cell. This study highlights bioenergetic defects within a cellular model of ALS and suggests that oxidative stress is not only detrimental to oxygen consumption but also glycolytic flux, which could lead to an energy deficit in the cell.
Sizing of GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat expansions within the C9ORF72 locus, which account for approximately 10% of all amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) cases, is urgently required to answer fundamental questions about mechanisms of pathogenesis in this important genetic variant. Currently employed PCR protocols are limited to discrimination between the presence and absence of a modified allele with more than 30 copies of the repeat, while Southern hybridisation-based methods are confounded by the somatic heterogeneity commonly present in blood samples, which might cause false-negative or ambiguous results.
We describe an optimised Southern hybridisation-based protocol that allows confident detection of the presence of a C9ORF72 repeat expansion alongside independent assessment of its heterogeneity and the number of repeat units. The protocol can be used with either a radiolabeled or non-radiolabeled probe. Using this method we have successfully sized the C9ORF72 repeat expansion in lymphoblastoid cells, peripheral blood, and post-mortem central nervous system (CNS) tissue from ALS patients. It was also possible to confidently demonstrate the presence of repeat expansion, although of different magnitude, in both C9ORF72 alleles of the genome of one patient.
The suggested protocol has sufficient advantages to warrant adoption as a standard for Southern blot hybridisation analysis of GGGGCC repeat expansions in the C9ORF72 locus.
C9ORF72; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Southern hybridisation
Intronic expansion of the GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat within the C9ORF72 gene causes frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/motor neuron disease in both familial and sporadic cases. Initial reports indicate that this variant within the frontotemporal dementia/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis spectrum is associated with transactive response DNA binding protein (TDP-43) proteinopathy. The amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/motor neuron disease phenotype is not yet well characterized. We report the clinical and pathological phenotypes associated with pathogenic C9ORF72 mutations in a cohort of 563 cases from Northern England, including 63 with a family history of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. One hundred and fifty-eight cases from the cohort (21 familial, 137 sporadic) were post-mortem brain and spinal cord donors. We screened DNA for the C9ORF72 mutation, reviewed clinical case histories and undertook pathological evaluation of brain and spinal cord. Control DNA samples (n = 361) from the same population were also screened. The C9ORF72 intronic expansion was present in 62 cases [11% of the cohort; 27/63 (43%) familial, 35/500 (7%) cases with sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/motor neuron disease]. Disease duration was significantly shorter in cases with C9ORF72-related amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (30.5 months) compared with non-C9ORF72 amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/motor neuron disease (36.3 months, P < 0.05). C9ORF72 cases included both limb and bulbar onset disease and all cases showed combined upper and lower motor neuron degeneration (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Thus, clinically, C9ORF72 cases show the features of a relatively rapidly progressive, but otherwise typical, variant of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis associated with both familial and sporadic presentations. Dementia was present in the patient or a close family member in 22/62 cases with C9ORF72 mutation (35%) based on diagnoses established from retrospective clinical case note review that may underestimate significant cognitive changes in late disease. All the C9ORF72 mutation cases showed classical amyotrophic lateral sclerosis pathology with TDP-43 inclusions in spinal motor neurons. Neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions and glial inclusions positive for p62 immunostaining in non-motor regions were strongly over-represented in the C9ORF72 cases. Extra-motor pathology in the frontal cortex (P < 0.0005) and the hippocampal CA4 subfield neurons (P < 0.0005) discriminated C9ORF72 cases strongly from the rest of the cohort. Inclusions in CA4 neurons were not present in non-C9ORF72 cases, indicating that this pathology predicts mutation status.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; C9ORF72; dementia; neurodegeneration
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
Motor neurone disease (MND) is a devastating illness which leads to muscle weakness and death, usually within 2-3 years of symptom onset. Respiratory insufficiency is a common cause of morbidity, particularly in later stages of MND and respiratory complications are the leading cause of mortality in MND patients. Non Invasive Ventilation (NIV) is the current standard therapy to manage respiratory insufficiency. Some MND patients however do not tolerate NIV due to a number of issues including mask interface problems and claustrophobia. In those that do tolerate NIV, eventually respiratory muscle weakness will progress to a point at which intermittent/overnight NIV is ineffective. The NeuRx RA/4 Diaphragm Pacing System was originally developed for patients with respiratory insufficiency and diaphragm paralysis secondary to stable high spinal cord injuries. The DiPALS study will assess the effect of diaphragm pacing (DP) when used to treat patients with MND and respiratory insufficiency.
108 patients will be recruited to the study at 5 sites in the UK. Patients will be randomised to either receive NIV (current standard care) or receive DP in addition to NIV. Study participants will be required to complete outcome measures at 5 follow up time points (2, 3, 6, 9 and 12 months) plus an additional surgery and 1 week post operative visit for those in the DP group. 12 patients (and their carers) from the DP group will also be asked to complete 2 qualitative interviews.
The primary objective of this trial will be to evaluate the effect of Diaphragm Pacing (DP) on survival over the study duration in patients with MND with respiratory muscle weakness. The project is funded by the National Institute for Health Research, Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Programme (project number 09/55/33) and the Motor Neurone Disease Association and the Henry Smith Charity. Trial Registration: Current controlled trials ISRCTN53817913. The views and opinions expressed therein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the HTA programme, NIHR, NHS or the Department of Health.
We and others have recently reported an association between amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and single nucleotide polymorphisms on chromosome 9p21 in several populations. Here we show that the associated haplotype is the same in all populations and that several families previously shown to have genetic linkage to this region also share this haplotype. The most parsimonious explanation of these data are that there is a single founder for this form of disease.
Genetics; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Frontotemporal dementia; Finland
Overexpression of mutant copper/zinc superoxide dismutase (SOD1) in rodents has provided useful models for studying the pathogenesis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Microglia have been shown to contribute to ALS disease progression in these models, although the mechanism of this contribution remains to be elucidated. Here, we present the first evidence of the effects of overexpression of mutant (TG G93A) and wild type (TG WT) human SOD1 transgenes on a set of functional properties of microglia relevant to ALS progression, including expression of integrin β-1, spreading and migration, phagocytosis of apoptotic neuronal cell debris, and intracellular calcium changes in response to an inflammatory stimulus.
TG SOD1 G93A but not TG SOD1 WT microglia had lower expression levels of the cell adhesion molecule subunit integrin β-1 than their NTG control cells [NTG (G93A) and NTG (WT), respectively, 92.8 ± 2.8% on TG G93A, 92.0 ± 6.6% on TG WT, 100.0 ± 1.6% on NTG (G93A), and 100.0 ± 2.7% on NTG (WT) cells], resulting in decreased spreading ability, with no effect on ability to migrate. Both TG G93A and TG WT microglia had reduced capacity to phagocytose apoptotic neuronal cell debris (13.0 ± 1.3% for TG G93A, 16.5 ± 1.9% for TG WT, 28.6 ± 1.8% for NTG (G93A), and 26.9 ± 2.8% for NTG (WT) cells). Extracellular stimulation of microglia with ATP resulted in smaller increase in intracellular free calcium in TG G93A and TG WT microglia relative to NTG controls (0.28 ± 0.02 μM for TG G93A, 0.24 ± 0.03 μM for TG WT, 0.39 ± 0.03 μM for NTG (G93A), and 0.37 ± 0.05 μM for NTG (WT) microglia).
These findings indicate that, under resting conditions, microglia from mutant SOD1 transgenic mice have a reduced capacity to elicit physiological responses following tissue disturbances and that higher levels of stimulatory signals, and/or prolonged stimulation may be necessary to initiate these responses. Overall, resting mutant SOD1-overexpressing microglia may have reduced capacity to function as sensors of disturbed tissue/cellular homeostasis in the CNS and thus have reduced neuroprotective function.
The human SOD1G93A transgenic mouse has been used extensively since its development in 1994 as a model for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In that time, a great many insights into the toxicity of mutant SOD1 have been gained using this and other mutant SOD transgenic mouse models. They all demonstrate a selective toxicity towards motor neurons and in some cases features of the pathology seen in the human disease. These models have two major drawbacks. Firstly the generation of robust preclinical data in these models has been highlighted as an area for concern. Secondly, the amount of time required for a single preclinical experiment in these models (3–4 months) is a hurdle to the development of new therapies. We have developed an inbred C57BL/6 mouse line from the original mixed background (SJLxC57BL/6) SOD1G93A transgenic line and show here that the disease course is remarkably consistent and much less prone to background noise, enabling reduced numbers of mice for testing of therapeutics. Secondly we have identified very early readouts showing a large decline in motor function compared to normal mice. This loss of motor function has allowed us to develop an early, sensitive and rapid screening protocol for the initial phases of denervation of muscle fibers, observed in this model. We describe multiple, quantitative readouts of motor function that can be used to interrogate this early mechanism. Such an approach will increase throughput for reduced costs, whilst reducing the severity of the experimental procedures involved.