Genome-wide association studies (GWASs) have been effective approaches to dissect common genetic variability underlying complex diseases in a systematic and unbiased way. Recently, GWASs have led to the discovery of over 20 susceptibility loci for Alzheimer's disease (AD). Despite the evidence showing the contribution of these loci to AD pathogenesis, their genetic architecture has not been extensively investigated, leaving the possibility that low frequency and rare coding variants may also occur and contribute to the risk of disease. We have used exome and genome sequencing data to analyze the single independent and joint effect of rare and low-frequency protein coding variants in 9 AD GWAS loci with the strongest effect sizes after APOE (BIN1, CLU, CR1, PICALM, MS4A6A, ABCA7, EPHA1, CD33, and CD2AP) in a cohort of 332 sporadic AD cases and 676 elderly controls of British and North-American ancestry. We identified coding variability in ABCA7 as contributing to AD risk. This locus harbors a low-frequency coding variant (p.G215S, rs72973581, minor allele frequency = 4.3%) conferring a modest but statistically significant protection against AD (p-value = 0.024, odds ratio = 0.57, 95% confidence interval = 0.41–0.80). Notably, our results are not driven by an enrichment of loss of function variants in ABCA7, recently reported as main pathogenic factor underlying AD risk at this locus. In summary, our study confirms the role of ABCA7 in AD and provides new insights that should address functional studies.
Alzheimer's disease (AD); Genome-wide association studies (GWASs); ABCA7; Whole exome sequencing (WES); Whole genome sequencing (WGS); Protective variant
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is characterized by behavioral disturbances and language problems. Familial forms can be caused by genetic defects in microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT), progranulin (GRN), and C9orf72. In light of upcoming clinical trials with potential disease-modifying agents, the development of sensitive biomarkers to evaluate such agents in the earliest stage of FTD is crucial. In the current longitudinal study we used arterial spin labeling MRI (ASL) in presymptomatic carriers of MAPT and GRN mutations to investigate early changes in cerebral blood flow (CBF).
Healthy first-degree relatives of patients with a MAPT or GRN mutation underwent ASL at baseline and follow-up after two years. We investigated cross-sectional and longitudinal differences in CBF between mutation carriers (n = 34) and controls without a mutation (n = 31).
GRN mutation carriers showed significant frontoparietal hypoperfusion compared with controls at follow-up, whereas we found no cross-sectional group differences in the total study group or the MAPT subgroup. Longitudinal analyses revealed a significantly stronger decrease in CBF in frontal, temporal, parietal, and subcortical areas in the total group of mutation carriers and the GRN subgroup, with the strongest decrease in two mutation carriers who converted to clinical FTD during follow-up.
We demonstrated longitudinal alterations in CBF in presymptomatic FTD independent of grey matter atrophy, with the strongest decrease in individuals that developed symptoms during follow-up. Therefore, ASL could have the potential to serve as a sensitive biomarker of disease progression in the presymptomatic stage of FTD in future clinical trials.
•Longitudinal alterations in cerebral blood flow in presymptomatic FTD•Larger decline in cerebral blood flow during conversion to symptomatic FTD•Arterial spin labeling might provide a useful biomarker for therapeutic trials.
FTD, frontotemporal dementia; MAPT, microtubule-associated protein tau; GRN, progranulin; ASL, arterial spin labeling; CBF, cerebral blood flow; FDG-PET, positron emission tomography with 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose; MMSE, Mini-Mental State Examination; BDI-II, Beck Depression inventory II (BDI-II); RAVLT, Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test; VAT, Visual Association Test; TMT, Trailmaking Test; WCST, Wisconsin Card Sorting Test; LDST, Letter Digit Substitution Test; BNT, Boston Naming Test; SAT, Semantic Association Test; AD, Alzheimer's disease; Frontotemporal dementia; Arterial spin labeling; Cerebral blood flow; Presymptomatic
Pathogenic mutations in the granulin gene (GRN) are causative in 5-10% of patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD), mostly leading to reduced progranulin protein (PGRN) levels. Upcoming therapeutic trials focus on enhancing PGRN levels.
Fluctuations in plasma PGRN (n = 41) and its relationship with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF, n = 32) and specific single nucleotide polymorphisms were investigated in pre- and symptomatic GRN mutation carriers and controls.
Plasma PGRN levels were lower in carriers than in controls and showed a mean coefficient of variation of 5.3% in carriers over 1 week. Although plasma PGRN correlated with CSF PGRN in carriers (r = 0.54, p = 0.02), plasma only explained 29% of the variability in CSF PGRN. rs5848, rs646776 and rs1990622 genotypes only partly explained the variability of PGRN levels between subjects.
Plasma PGRN is relatively stable over 1 week and therefore seems suitable for treatment monitoring of PGRN-enhancing agents. Since plasma PGRN only moderately correlated with CSF PGRN, CSF sampling will additionally be needed in therapeutic trials.
Frontotemporal dementia; Progranulin protein; Granulin gene (GRN); Plasma; Cerebrospinal fluid; Biomarker; Single nucleotide polymorphism
Algorithms for computer-aided diagnosis of dementia based on structural MRI have demonstrated high performance in the literature, but are difficult to compare as different data sets and methodology were used for evaluation. In addition, it is unclear how the algorithms would perform on previously unseen data, and thus, how they would perform in clinical practice when there is no real opportunity to adapt the algorithm to the data at hand. To address these comparability, generalizability and clinical applicability issues, we organized a grand challenge that aimed to objectively compare algorithms based on a clinically representative multi-center data set. Using clinical practice as starting point, the goal was to reproduce the clinical diagnosis. Therefore, we evaluated algorithms for multi-class classification of three diagnostic groups: patients with probable Alzheimer’s disease, patients with mild cognitive impairment and healthy controls. The diagnosis based on clinical criteria was used as reference standard, as it was the best available reference despite its known limitations. For evaluation, a previously unseen test set was used consisting of 354 T1-weighted MRI scans with the diagnoses blinded. Fifteen research teams participated with in total 29 algorithms. The algorithms were trained on a small training set (n=30) and optionally on data from other sources (e.g., the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, the Australian Imaging Biomarkers and Lifestyle flagship study of aging). The best performing algorithm yielded an accuracy of 63.0% and an area under the receiver-operating-characteristic curve (AUC) of 78.8%. In general, the best performances were achieved using feature extraction based on voxel-based morphometry or a combination of features that included volume, cortical thickness, shape and intensity. The challenge is open for new submissions via the web-based framework: http://caddementia.grand-challenge.org.
Alzheimer’s disease; Challenge; Classification; Computer-aided diagnosis; Mild cognitive impairment; Structural MRI
To evaluate cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and serum neurofilament light chain (NfL) levels in genetic frontotemporal dementia (FTD) as a potential biomarker in the presymptomatic stage and during the conversion into the symptomatic stage. Additionally, to correlate NfL levels to clinical and neuroimaging parameters.
In this multicenter case–control study, we investigated CSF NfL in 174 subjects (48 controls, 40 presymptomatic carriers and 86 patients with microtubule‐associated protein tau (MAPT), progranulin (GRN), and chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9orf72) mutations), and serum NfL in 118 subjects (39 controls, 44 presymptomatic carriers, 35 patients). In 55 subjects both CSF and serum was determined. In two subjects CSF was available before and after symptom onset (converters). Additionally, NfL levels were correlated with clinical parameters, survival, and regional brain atrophy.
CSF NfL levels in patients (median 6762 pg/mL, interquartile range 3186–9309 pg/mL) were strongly elevated compared with presymptomatic carriers (804 pg/mL, 627–1173 pg/mL, P < 0.001), resulting in a good diagnostic performance to discriminate both groups. Serum NfL correlated highly with CSF NfL (r
s= 0.87, P < 0.001) and was similarly elevated in patients. Longitudinal samples in the converters showed a three‐ to fourfold increase in CSF NfL after disease onset. Additionally, NfL levels in patients correlated with disease severity, brain atrophy, annualized brain atrophy rate and survival.
NfL in both serum and CSF has the potential to serve as a biomarker for clinical disease onset and has a prognostic value in genetic FTD.
We describe the largest series of patients with TARDBP mutations presenting with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and review the cases in the literature to precisely characterize FTD diseases associated with this genotype.
The phenotypic characteristics of 29 TARDBP patients, including 10 new French and Dutch cases and 19 reviewed from the literature, were evaluated.
The most frequent phenotype was a behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), but a significant proportion (40%) of our patients had semantic (svFTD) or nonfluent variants (nfvFTD) at onset; and svFTD was significantly more frequent in TARDBP carriers than in other FTD genotypes (p < 0.001). Remarkably, only a minority (40%) of our patients secondarily developed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Two patients carried a homozygous mutation but strikingly different phenotypes (bvFTD and ALS) indicating that homozygosity does not result in a specific phenotype. Earlier age at onset in children than parent's generations, mimicking an apparent “anticipation” (21.8 ± 9.3 years, p = 0.001), and possible reduced penetrance were present in most families.
This study enlarges the phenotypic spectrum of TARDBP and will have important clinical implications: (1) FTD can be the only clinical manifestation of TARDBP mutations; (2) Initial language or semantic disorders might be indicative of a specific genotype; (3) Mutations should be searched in all FTD phenotypes after exclusion of major genes, even in the absence of ALS in the proband or in family history; (4) reduced penetrance and clinical variability should be considered to deliver appropriate genetic counseling.
Memory performance in older persons can reflect genetic influences on cognitive function and dementing processes. We aimed to identify genetic contributions to verbal declarative memory in a community setting.
We conducted genome-wide association studies for paragraph or word list delayed recall in 19 cohorts from the Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology consortium, comprising 29,076 dementia-and stroke-free individuals of European descent, aged ≥45 years. Replication of suggestive associations (p < 5 × 10−6) was sought in 10,617 participants of European descent, 3811 African-Americans, and 1561 young adults.
rs4420638, near APOE, was associated with poorer delayed recall performance in discovery (p = 5.57 × 10−10) and replication cohorts (p = 5.65 × 10−8). This association was stronger for paragraph than word list delayed recall and in the oldest persons. Two associations with specific tests, in subsets of the total sample, reached genome-wide significance in combined analyses of discovery and replication (rs11074779 [HS3ST4], p = 3.11 × 10−8, and rs6813517 [SPOCK3], p = 2.58 × 10−8) near genes involved in immune response. A genetic score combining 58 independent suggestive memory risk variants was associated with increasing Alzheimer disease pathology in 725 autopsy samples. Association of memory risk loci with gene expression in 138 human hippocampus samples showed cis-associations with WDR48 and CLDN5, both related to ubiquitin metabolism.
This largest study to date exploring the genetics of memory function in ~ 40,000 older individuals revealed genome-wide associations and suggested an involvement of immune and ubiquitin pathways.
Alzheimer disease; Dementia; Epidemiology; Genetics; Population-based; Verbal declarative memory
‘Phenocopy’ frontotemporal dementia (phFTD) patients may clinically mimic the behavioral variant of FTD (bvFTD), but do not show functional decline or abnormalities upon visual inspection of routine neuroimaging. We aimed to identify abnormalities in gray matter (GM) volume and perfusion in phFTD and to assess whether phFTD belongs to the FTD spectrum. We compared phFTD patients with both healthy controls and bvFTD patients.
Materials & methods
Seven phFTD and 11 bvFTD patients, and 20 age-matched controls underwent structural T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and 3D pseudo-continuous arterial spin labeling (pCASL) at 3T. Normalized GM (nGM) volumes and perfusion, corrected for partial volume effects, were quantified regionally as well as in the entire supratentorial cortex, and compared between groups taking into account potential confounding effects of gender and scanner.
PhFTD patients showed cortical atrophy, most prominently in the right temporal lobe. Apart from this regional atrophy, GM volume was generally not different from either controls or from bvFTD. BvFTD however showed extensive frontotemporal atrophy. Perfusion was increased in the left prefrontal cortex compared to bvFTD and to a lesser extent to controls.
PhFTD and bvFTD show overlapping cortical structural abnormalities indicating a continuum of changes especially in the frontotemporal regions. Together with functional changes suggestive of a compensatory response to incipient pathology in the left prefrontal regions, these findings are the first to support a possible neuropathological etiology of phFTD and suggest that phFTD may be a neurodegenerative disease on the FTD spectrum.
•Both phFTD and bvFTD show frontotemporal cortical structural abnormalities.•PhFTD shows left frontal hyperperfusion, suggestive of functional compensation.•Overlapping findings in phFTD and bvFTD findings suggest a common disease spectrum.
Phenocopy frontotemporal dementia; Behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia; Arterial spin labeling-MRI; Cerebral blood flow; Gray matter volume
The burden of cerebral white matter hyperintensities (WMH) is associated with an increased risk of stroke, dementia, and death. WMH are highly heritable, but their genetic underpinnings are incompletely characterized. To identify novel genetic variants influencing WMH burden, we conducted a meta-analysis of multi-ethnic genome-wide association studies.
Methods and Results
We included 21,079 middle-aged to elderly individuals from 29 population-based cohorts, who were free of dementia and stroke and were of European (N=17,936), African (N=1,943), Hispanic (N=795), and Asian (N=405) descent. WMH burden was quantified on MRI either by a validated automated segmentation method or a validated visual grading scale. Genotype data in each study were imputed to the 1000 Genomes reference. Within each ethnic group, we investigated the relationship between each SNP and WMH burden using a linear regression model adjusted for age, sex, intracranial volume, and principal components of ancestry. A meta-analysis was conducted for each ethnicity separately and for the combined sample. In the European descent samples, we confirmed a previously known locus on chr17q25 (p=2.7×10−19) and identified novel loci on chr10q24 (p=1.6×10−9) and chr2p21 (p=4.4×10−8). In the multi-ethnic meta-analysis, we identified two additional loci, on chr1q22 (p=2.0×10−8) and chr2p16 (p=1.5×10−8). The novel loci contained genes that have been implicated in Alzheimer’s disease (chr2p21, chr10q24), intracerebral hemorrhage (chr1q22), neuroinflammatory diseases (chr2p21), and glioma (chr10q24, chr2p16).
We identified four novel genetic loci that implicate inflammatory and glial proliferative pathways in the development of white matter hyperintensities in addition to previously-proposed ischemic mechanisms.
Genome Wide Association Study; cerebral small vessel disease; single nucleotide polymorphisms cerebrovascular disorders; white matter disease; hypertension; high blood pressure
Reliable cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers enabling identification of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and its pathologic subtypes are lacking.
Unbiased high-resolution mass spectrometry–based proteomics was applied on CSF of FTD patients with TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43, FTD-TDP, n = 12) or tau pathology (FTD-tau, n = 8), and individuals with subjective memory complaints (SMC, n = 10). Validation was performed by applying enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) or enzymatic assays, when available, in a larger cohort (FTLD-TDP, n = 21, FTLD-tau, n = 10, SMC, n = 23) and in Alzheimer's disease (n = 20), dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB, n = 20), and vascular dementia (VaD, n = 18).
Of 1914 identified CSF proteins, 56 proteins were differentially regulated (fold change >1.2, P < .05) between the different patient groups: either between the two pathologic subtypes (10 proteins), or between at least one of these FTD subtypes and SMC (47 proteins). We confirmed the differential expression of YKL-40 by ELISA in a partly independent cohort. Furthermore, enzyme activity of catalase was decreased in FTD subtypes compared with SMC. Further validation in a larger cohort showed that the level of YKL-40 was twofold increased in both FTD pathologic subtypes compared with SMC and that the levels in FTLD-tau were higher compared to Alzheimer's dementia (AD), DLB, and VaD patients. Clinical validation furthermore showed that the catalase enzyme activity was decreased in the FTD subtypes compared to SMC, AD and DLB.
We identified promising CSF biomarkers for both FTD differential diagnosis and pathologic subtyping. YKL-40 and catalase enzyme activity should be validated further in similar pathology defined patient cohorts for their use for FTD diagnosis or treatment development.
Biomarkers; Cerebrospinal fluid; Proteomics; Frontotemporal dementia; Pathology; TDP-43; Tau; Differential diagnosis
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a complex disorder characterised by a broad range of clinical manifestations, differential pathological signatures, and genetic variability. Mutations in three genes—MAPT, GRN, and C9orf72—have been associated with FTD. We sought to identify novel genetic risk loci associated with the disorder.
We did a two-stage genome-wide association study on clinical FTD, analysing samples from 3526 patients with FTD and 9402 healthy controls. All participants had European ancestry. In the discovery phase (samples from 2154 patients with FTD and 4308 controls), we did separate association analyses for each FTD subtype (behavioural variant FTD, semantic dementia, progressive non-fluent aphasia, and FTD overlapping with motor neuron disease [FTD-MND]), followed by a meta-analysis of the entire dataset. We carried forward replication of the novel suggestive loci in an independent sample series (samples from 1372 patients and 5094 controls) and then did joint phase and brain expression and methylation quantitative trait loci analyses for the associated (p<5 × 10−8) and suggestive single-nucleotide polymorphisms.
We identified novel associations exceeding the genome-wide significance threshold (p<5 × 10−8) that encompassed the HLA locus at 6p21.3 in the entire cohort. We also identified a potential novel locus at 11q14, encompassing RAB38/CTSC, for the behavioural FTD subtype. Analysis of expression and methylation quantitative trait loci data suggested that these loci might affect expression and methylation incis.
Our findings suggest that immune system processes (link to 6p21.3) and possibly lysosomal and autophagy pathways (link to 11q14) are potentially involved in FTD. Our findings need to be replicated to better define the association of the newly identified loci with disease and possibly to shed light on the pathomechanisms contributing to FTD.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and National Institute on Aging, the Wellcome/ MRC Centre on Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s Research UK, and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.
Substantial clinical, pathological and genetic overlap exists between amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). TDP-43 inclusions have been found in both ALS and FTD cases (FTD-TDP). Recently, a repeat expansion in C9orf72 was identified as the causal variant in a proportion of ALS and FTD cases. We sought to identify additional evidence for a common genetic basis for the spectrum of ALS-FTD.
We used published GWAS data of 4,377 ALS patients and 13,017 controls and 435 pathology-proven FTD-TDP cases and 1,414 controls for genotype imputation. Data were analyzed in a joint meta-analysis, by replicating topmost associated hits of one disease in the other, and by using a conservative rank products analysis, allocating equal weight to ALS and FTD-TDP sample sizes.
Meta-analysis identified 19 genome-wide significant single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) at C9orf72 on chromosome 9p21.2 (lowest p=2.6×10−12) and one SNP in UNC13A on chromosome 19p13.11 (p=1.0×10−11) as shared susceptibility loci for ALS and FTD-TDP. Conditioning on the 9p21.2 genotype increased statistical significance at UNC13A. A third signal, on chromosome 8q24.13 at the SPG8 locus coding for strumpellin, (p=3.91×10−7) was replicated in an independent cohort of 4,056 ALS patients and 3,958 controls (p=0.026; combined analysis p=1.01×10−7).
We identified common genetic variants at C9orf72, but in addition in UNC13A that are shared between ALS and FTD. UNC13A provides a novel link between ALS and FTD-TDP, and identifies changes in neurotransmitter release and synaptic function as a converging mechanism in the pathogenesis of ALS and FTD-TDP.
To investigate arterial spin labeling (ASL)-MRI for the early diagnosis of and differentiation between the two most common types of presenile dementia: Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), and for distinguishing age-related from pathological perfusion changes.
Thirteen AD and 19 FTD patients, and 25 age-matched older and 22 younger controls underwent 3D pseudo-continuous ASL-MRI at 3 T. Gray matter (GM) volume and cerebral blood flow (CBF), corrected for partial volume effects, were quantified in the entire supratentorial cortex and in 10 GM regions. Sensitivity, specificity and diagnostic performance were evaluated in regions showing significant CBF differences between patient groups or between patients and older controls.
AD compared with FTD patients had hypoperfusion in the posterior cingulate cortex, differentiating these with a diagnostic performance of 74 %. Compared to older controls, FTD patients showed hypoperfusion in the anterior cingulate cortex, whereas AD patients showed a more widespread regional hypoperfusion as well as atrophy. Regional atrophy was not different between AD and FTD. Diagnostic performance of ASL to differentiate AD or FTD from controls was good (78-85 %). Older controls showed global hypoperfusion compared to young controls.
ASL-MRI contributes to early diagnosis of and differentiation between presenile AD and FTD.
• ASL-MRI facilitates differentiation of early Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia.
• Posterior cingulate perfusion is lower in Alzheimer’s disease than frontotemporal dementia.
• Compared to controls, Alzheimer’s disease patients show hypoperfusion in multiple regions.
• Compared to controls, frontotemporal dementia patients show focal anterior cingulate hypoperfusion.
• Global decreased perfusion in older adults differs from hypoperfusion in dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease; Frontotemporal dementia; Arterial spin labeling MRI; Sensitivity; Specificity
Introduction: Alzheimer's disease (AD) and behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) are the most common types of early-onset dementia. Early differentiation between both types of dementia may be challenging due to heterogeneity and overlap of symptoms. Here, we apply resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study functional brain connectivity differences between AD and bvFTD.
Methods: We used resting state fMRI data of 31 AD patients, 25 bvFTD patients, and 29 controls from two centers specialized in dementia. We studied functional connectivity throughout the entire brain, applying two different analysis techniques, studying network-to-region and region-to-region connectivity. A general linear model approach was used to study group differences, while controlling for physiological noise, age, gender, study center, and regional gray matter volume.
Results: Given gray matter differences, we observed decreased network-to-region connectivity in bvFTD between (a) lateral visual cortical network and lateral occipital and cuneal cortex, and (b) auditory system network and angular gyrus. In AD, we found decreased network-to-region connectivity between the dorsal visual stream network and lateral occipital and parietal opercular cortex. Region-to-region connectivity was decreased in bvFTD between superior temporal gyrus and cuneal, supracalcarine, intracalcarine cortex, and lingual gyrus.
Conclusion: We showed that the pathophysiology of functional brain connectivity is different between AD and bvFTD. Our findings support the hypothesis that resting state fMRI shows disease-specific functional connectivity differences and is useful to elucidate the pathophysiology of AD and bvFTD. However, the group differences in functional connectivity are less abundant than has been shown in previous studies.
Alzheimer's disease; frontotemporal dementia; functional connectivity; functional magnetic resonance imaging; neurodegenerative disorders; resting state fMRI; resting state networks
Resting-state fMRI (R-fMRI) has shown considerable promise in providing potential biomarkers for diagnosis, prognosis and drug response across a range of diseases. Incorporating R-fMRI into multi-center studies is becoming increasingly popular, imposing technical challenges on data acquisition and analysis, as fMRI data is particularly sensitive to structured noise resulting from hardware, software, and environmental differences. Here, we investigated whether a novel clean up tool for structured noise was capable of reducing center-related R-fMRI differences between healthy subjects. We analyzed three Tesla R-fMRI data from 72 subjects, half of whom were scanned with eyes closed in a Philips Achieva system in The Netherlands, and half of whom were scanned with eyes open in a Siemens Trio system in the UK. After pre-statistical processing and individual Independent Component Analysis (ICA), FMRIB's ICA-based X-noiseifier (FIX) was used to remove noise components from the data. GICA and dual regression were run and non-parametric statistics were used to compare spatial maps between groups before and after applying FIX. Large significant differences were found in all resting-state networks between study sites before using FIX, most of which were reduced to non-significant after applying FIX. The between-center difference in the medial/primary visual network, presumably reflecting a between-center difference in protocol, remained statistically significant. FIX helps facilitate multi-center R-fMRI research by diminishing structured noise from R-fMRI data. In doing so, it improves combination of existing data from different centers in new settings and comparison of rare diseases and risk genes for which adequate sample size remains a challenge.
resting-state functional MRI; multi-center analysis; independent component analysis; dual regression; structured noise reduction
The Parelsnoer Institute is a collaboration between 8 Dutch University Medical Centers in which clinical data and biomaterials from patients suffering from chronic diseases (so called “Pearls”) are collected according to harmonized protocols. The Pearl Neurodegenerative Diseases focuses on the role of biomarkers in the early diagnosis, differential diagnosis and in monitoring the course of neurodegenerative diseases, in particular Alzheimer’s disease.
The objective of this paper is to describe the design and methods of the Pearl Neurodegenerative Diseases, as well as baseline descriptive variables, including their biomarker profile.
The Pearl Neurodegenerative Diseases is a 3-year follow-up study of patients referred to a memory clinic with cognitive complaints. At baseline, all patients are subjected to a standardized examination, including clinical data and biobank materials, e.g. blood samples, MRI and cerebrospinal fluid. At present, in total more than 1000 patients have been included, of which cerebrospinal fluid and DNA samples are available of 211 and 661 patients, respectively. First descriptives of a subsample of the data (n = 665) shows that patients are diagnosed with dementia (45%), mild cognitive impairment (31%), and subjective memory complaints (24%).
The Pearl Neurodegenerative Diseases is an ongoing large network collecting clinical data and biomaterials of more than 1000 patients with cognitive impairments. The project has started with data analyses of the baseline characteristics and biomarkers, which will be the starting point of future specific research questions that can be answered by this unique dataset.
Dementia; Alzheimer’s disease; Design; Biobank; Research infrastructure
C9orf72; GGGGCC repeat; ALS; FTD; Inducible mouse model; RNA gain-of-function
The nuclear protein fused in sarcoma (FUS) is found in cytoplasmic inclusions in a subset of patients with the neurodegenerative disorder frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD-FUS). FUS contains a methylated arginine-glycine-glycine domain which is required for transport into the nucleus. Recent findings have shown that this domain is hypomethylated in patients with FTLD-FUS. To determine if the cause of hypomethylation is the result of mutations in protein N-arginine methyltransferases (PRMTs), we selected 3 candidate genes (PRMT1, PRMT3 and PRMT8) and performed complete sequencing analysis and real-time PCR mRNA expression analysis in 20 FTLD-FUS cases. No mutations or statistically significant changes in expression were observed in our patient samples, suggesting that defects in PRMTs are not the cause of FTLD-FUS.
Hexanucleotide repeat expansions in chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9orf72) have recently been linked to frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and may be the most common genetic cause of both neurodegenerative diseases. Genetic variants at TMEM106B influence risk for the most common neuropathological subtype of FTLD, characterized by inclusions of TAR DNA binding protein of 43kDa (FTLD-TDP). Previous reports have shown that TMEM106B is a genetic modifier of FTLD-TDP caused by progranulin (GRN) mutations, with the major (risk) allele of rs1990622 associating with earlier age at onset of disease. Here we report that rs1990622 genotype affects age at death in a single-site discovery cohort of FTLD patients with C9orf72 expansions (n=14), with the major allele correlated with later age at death (p=0.024). We replicate this modifier effect in a 30-site international neuropathological cohort of FTLD-TDP patients with C9orf72 expansions (n=75), again finding that the major allele associates with later age at death (p=0.016), as well as later age at onset (p=0.019). In contrast, TMEM106B genotype does not affect age at onset or death in 241 FTLD-TDP cases negative for GRN mutations or C9orf72 expansions. Thus, TMEM106B is a genetic modifier of FTLD with C9orf72 expansions. Intriguingly, the genotype that confers increased risk for developing FTLD-TDP (major, or T, allele of rs1990622) is associated with later age at onset and death in C9orf72 expansion carriers, providing an example of sign epistasis in human neurodegenerative disease.
TMEM106B; C9orf72; frontotemporal dementia; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; genetic modifier
We aimed to investigate whether cognitive deficits and structural and functional connectivity changes can be detected before symptom onset in a large cohort of carriers of microtubule-associated protein tau and progranulin mutations.
In this case-control study, 75 healthy individuals (aged 20–70 years) with 50% risk for frontotemporal dementia (FTD) underwent DNA screening, neuropsychological assessment, and structural and functional MRI. We used voxel-based morphometry and tract-based spatial statistics for voxelwise analyses of gray matter volume and diffusion tensor imaging measures. Using resting-state fMRI scans, we assessed whole-brain functional connectivity to frontoinsula, anterior midcingulate cortex (aMCC), and posterior cingulate cortex.
Although carriers (n = 37) and noncarriers (n = 38) had similar neuropsychological performance, worse performance on Stroop III, Ekman faces, and Happé cartoons correlated with higher age in carriers, but not controls. Reduced fractional anisotropy and increased radial diffusivity throughout frontotemporal white matter tracts were found in carriers and correlated with higher age. Reductions in functional aMCC connectivity were found in carriers compared with controls, and connectivity between frontoinsula and aMCC seeds and several brain regions significantly decreased with higher age in carriers but not controls. We found no significant differences or age correlations in posterior cingulate cortex connectivity. No differences in regional gray matter volume were found.
This study convincingly demonstrates that alterations in structural and functional connectivity develop before the first symptoms of FTD arise. These findings suggest that diffusion tensor imaging and resting-state fMRI may have the potential to become sensitive biomarkers for early FTD in future clinical trials.
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.
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
Cerebral small vessel disease (CSVD) is thought to contribute to cognitive dysfunction in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The underlying mechanisms, and more specifically, the effects of CSVD on brain functioning in MCI are incompletely understood. The objective of the present study was to examine the effects of CSVD on brain functioning, activation and deactivation, in patients with MCI using task-related functional MRI (fMRI).
We included 16 MCI patients with CSVD, 26 MCI patients without CSVD and 25 controls. All participants underwent a physical and neurological examination, neuropsychological testing, structural MRI, and fMRI during a graded working memory paradigm.
MCI patients with and without CSVD had a similar neuropsychological profile and task performance during fMRI, but differed with respect to underlying (de)activation patterns. MCI patients with CSVD showed impaired deactivation in the precuneus/posterior cingulate cortex, a region known to be involved in the default mode network. In MCI patients without CSVD, brain activation depended on working memory load, as they showed relative ‘hyperactivation’ during vigilance, and ‘hypoactivation’ at a high working memory load condition in working memory related brain regions.
We present evidence that the potential underlying mechanism of CSVD affecting cognition in MCI is through network interference. The observed differences in brain activation and deactivation between MCI patients with and without CSVD, who had a similar ‘clinical phenotype’, support the view that, in patients with MCI, different types of pathology can contribute to cognitive impairment through different pathways.
Mild cognitive impairment; Cerebral small vessel disease; Functional MRI; Working memory; Default mode network