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1.  Age-at-Onset in Late Onset Alzheimer Disease is Modified by Multiple Genetic Loci 
JAMA neurology  2014;71(11):1394-1404.
As APOE locus variants contribute to both risk of late-onset Alzheimer disease and differences in age-at-onset, it is important to know if other established late-onset Alzheimer disease risk loci also affect age-at-onset in cases.
To investigate the effects of known Alzheimer disease risk loci in modifying age-at-onset, and to estimate their cumulative effect on age-at-onset variation, using data from genome-wide association studies in the Alzheimer’s Disease Genetics Consortium (ADGC).
Design, Setting and Participants
The ADGC comprises 14 case-control, prospective, and family-based datasets with data on 9,162 Caucasian participants with Alzheimer’s occurring after age 60 who also had complete age-at-onset information, gathered between 1989 and 2011 at multiple sites by participating studies. Data on genotyped or imputed single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) most significantly associated with risk at ten confirmed LOAD loci were examined in linear modeling of AAO, and individual dataset results were combined using a random effects, inverse variance-weighted meta-analysis approach to determine if they contribute to variation in age-at-onset. Aggregate effects of all risk loci on AAO were examined in a burden analysis using genotype scores weighted by risk effect sizes.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Age at disease onset abstracted from medical records among participants with late-onset Alzheimer disease diagnosed per standard criteria.
Analysis confirmed association of APOE with age-at-onset (rs6857, P=3.30×10−96), with associations in CR1 (rs6701713, P=7.17×10−4), BIN1 (rs7561528, P=4.78×10−4), and PICALM (rs561655, P=2.23×10−3) reaching statistical significance (P<0.005). Risk alleles individually reduced age-at-onset by 3-6 months. Burden analyses demonstrated that APOE contributes to 3.9% of variation in age-at-onset (R2=0.220) over baseline (R2=0.189) whereas the other nine loci together contribute to 1.1% of variation (R2=0.198).
Conclusions and Relevance
We confirmed association of APOE variants with age-at-onset among late-onset Alzheimer disease cases and observed novel associations with age-at-onset in CR1, BIN1, and PICALM. In contrast to earlier hypothetical modeling, we show that the combined effects of Alzheimer disease risk variants on age-at-onset are on the scale of, but do not exceed, the APOE effect. While the aggregate effects of risk loci on age-at-onset may be significant, additional genetic contributions to age-at-onset are individually likely to be small.
PMCID: PMC4314944  PMID: 25199842
Alzheimer Disease; Alzheimer Disease Genetics; Alzheimer’s Disease - Pathophysiology; Genetics of Alzheimer Disease; Aging
2.  Nonamnestic mild cognitive impairment progresses to dementia with Lewy bodies 
Neurology  2013;81(23):2032-2038.
To determine the rate of progression of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB).
We followed 337 patients with MCI in the Mayo Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (range 2–12 years). Competing risks survival models were used to examine the rates of progression to clinically probable DLB and Alzheimer disease (AD). A subset of patients underwent neuropathologic examination.
In this clinical cohort, 116 remained as MCI, while 49 progressed to probable DLB, 162 progressed to clinically probable AD, and 10 progressed to other dementias. Among nonamnestic MCI, progression rate to probable DLB was 20 events per 100 person-years and to probable AD was 1.6 per 100 person-years. Among amnestic MCI, progression rate to probable AD was 17 events per 100 person-years, and to DLB was 1.5 events per 100 person-years. In 88% of those who developed probable DLB, the baseline MCI diagnosis included attention and/or visuospatial deficits. Those who developed probable DLB were more likely to have baseline daytime sleepiness and subtle parkinsonism. In 99% of the clinically probable AD group, the baseline MCI diagnosis included memory impairment. Neuropathologic confirmation was obtained in 24 of 30 of those with clinically probable AD, and in 14 of 18 of those with clinically probable DLB.
In a clinical sample, patients with nonamnestic MCI were more likely to develop DLB, and those with amnestic MCI were more likely to develop probable AD.
PMCID: PMC3854825  PMID: 24212390
3.  MRI and pathology of REM sleep behavior disorder in dementia with Lewy bodies 
Neurology  2013;81(19):1681-1689.
To determine structural MRI and digital microscopic characteristics of REM sleep behavior disorder in individuals with low-, intermediate-, and high-likelihood dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) at autopsy.
Patients with autopsy-confirmed low-, intermediate-, and high-likelihood DLB, according to the probability statement recommended by the third report of the DLB Consortium, and antemortem MRI, were identified (n = 75). The clinical history was assessed for presence (n = 35) and absence (n = 40) of probable REM sleep behavior disorder (pRBD), and patients' antemortem MRIs were compared using voxel-based morphometry. Pathologic burdens of phospho-tau, β-amyloid, and α-synuclein were measured in regions associated with early neuropathologic involvement, the hippocampus and amygdala.
pRBD was present in 21 patients (60%) with high-likelihood, 12 patients (34%) with intermediate-likelihood, and 2 patients (6%) with low-likelihood DLB. Patients with pRBD were younger, more likely to be male (p ≤ 0.001), and had a more frequent neuropathologic diagnosis of diffuse (neocortical) Lewy body disease. In the hippocampus and amygdala, phospho-tau and β-amyloid burden were lower in patients with pRBD compared with those without pRBD (p < 0.01). α-Synuclein burden did not differ in the hippocampus, but trended in the amygdala. Patients without pRBD had greater atrophy of temporoparietal cortices, hippocampus, and amygdala (p < 0.001) than those with pRBD; atrophy of the hippocampus (p = 0.005) and amygdala (p = 0.02) were associated with greater phospho-tau burdens in these regions.
Presence of pRBD is associated with a higher likelihood of DLB and less severe Alzheimer-related pathology in the medial temporal lobes, whereas absence of pRBD is characterized by Alzheimer-like atrophy patterns on MRI and increased phospho-tau burden.
PMCID: PMC3812105  PMID: 24107861
4.  Profilin-1 mutations are rare in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia 
Mutations in profilin-1 (PFN1) have recently been identified in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Because of the considerable overlap between ALS and the common subtype of frontotemporal dementia, which is characterized by transactive response DNA-binding protein 43 pathology (FTLD-TDP), we tested cohorts of ALS and FTLD-TDP patients for PFN1 mutations.
DNA was obtained from 342 ALS patients and 141 FTLD-TDP patients at our outpatient clinic and brain bank for neurodegenerative diseases at the Mayo Clinic Florida, Jacksonville, USA. We screened these patients for mutations in coding regions of PFN1 by Sanger sequencing. Subsequently, we used TaqMan genotyping assays to investigate the identified variant in 1167 control subjects.
One variant, p.E117G, was detected in 1 ALS patient, 1 FTLD-TDP patient, and 2 control subjects. The mutation frequency of patients versus control subjects was not significantly different (p-value = 0.36). Moreover, PFN1 and TDP-43 staining of autopsy material did not differ between patients with or without this variant.
The p.E117G variant appears to represent a benign polymorphism. PFN1 mutations, in general, are rare in ALS and FTLD-TDP patients.
PMCID: PMC3923463  PMID: 23634771
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; frontotemporal dementia; profilin-1; TDP-43; genetics
5.  TMEM106B p.T185S regulates TMEM106B protein levels: implications for frontotemporal dementia 
Journal of neurochemistry  2013;126(6):781-791.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is the second leading cause of dementia in individuals under age 65. In many patients, the predominant pathology includes neuronal cytoplasmic or intranuclear inclusions of ubiquitinated TAR DNA binding protein 43 (FTLDTDP). Recently, a genome-wide association study identified the first FTLD-TDP genetic risk factor, in which variants in and around the TMEM106B gene (top SNP rs1990622) were significantly associated with FTLD-TDP risk. Intriguingly, the most significant association was in FTLD-TDP patients carrying progranulin (GRN) mutations. Here we investigated to what extent the coding variant, rs3173615 (p.T185S) in linkage disequilibrium with rs1990622, affects progranulin protein (PGRN) biology and TMEM106B protein regulation.
First, we confirmed the association of TMEM106B variants with FTLD-TDP in a new cohort of GRN mutation carriers. We next generated and characterized a TMEM106B-specific antibody for investigation of this protein. Enzyme-linked immunoassay analysis of PGRN levels showed similar effects upon T185 and S185 TMEM106B overexpression. However, overexpression of T185 consistently led to higher TMEM106B protein levels than S185. Cycloheximide treatment experiments revealed that S185 degrades faster than T185 TMEM106B, potentially due to differences in N-glycosylation at residue N183. Together, our results provide a potential mechanism by which TMEM106B variants lead to differences in FTLD-TDP risk.
PMCID: PMC3766501  PMID: 23742080
TMEM106B; frontotemporal dementia; progranulin; glycosylation
6.  Age-Specific Incidence Rates for Dementia and Alzheimer Disease in NIA-LOAD/NCRAD and EFIGA Families 
JAMA neurology  2014;71(3):315-323.
Late-onset Alzheimer disease (LOAD), defined as onset of symptoms after age 65 years, is the most common form of dementia. Few reports investigate incidence rates in large family-based studies in which the participants were selected for family history of LOAD.
To determine the incidence rates of dementia and LOAD in unaffected members in the National Institute on Aging Genetics Initiative for Late-Onset Alzheimer Disease/National Cell Repository for Alzheimer Disease (NIA-LOAD/NCRAD) and Estudio Familiar de Influencia Genetica en Alzheimer (EFIGA) family studies.
Families with 2 or more affected siblings who had a clinical or pathological diagnosis of LOAD were recruited as a part of the NIA-LOAD/NCRAD Family Study. A cohort of Caribbean Hispanics with familial LOAD was recruited in a different study at the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain in New York and from clinics in the Dominican Republic as part of the EFIGA study.
Age-specific incidence rates of LOAD were estimated in the unaffected family members in the NIA-LOAD/NCRAD and EFIGA data sets. We restricted analyses to families with follow-up and complete phenotype information, including 396 NIA-LOAD/NCRAD and 242 EFIGA families. Among the 943 at-risk family members in the NIA-LOAD/NCRAD families, 126 (13.4%) developed dementia, of whom 109 (86.5%) met criteria for LOAD. Among 683 at-risk family members in the EFIGA families, 174 (25.5%) developed dementia during the study period, of whom 145 (83.3%) had LOAD.
The annual incidence rates of dementia and LOAD in the NIA-LOAD/NCRAD families per person-year were 0.03 and 0.03, respectively, in participants aged 65 to 74 years; 0.07 and 0.06, respectively, in those aged 75 to 84 years; and 0.08 and 0.07, respectively, in those 85 years or older. Incidence rates in the EFIGA families were slightly higher, at 0.03 and 0.02, 0.06 and 0.05, 0.10 and 0.08, and 0.10 and 0.07, respectively, in the same age groups. Contrasting these results with the population-based estimates, the incidence was increased by 3-fold for NIA-LOAD/NCRAD families (standardized incidence ratio, 3.44) and 2-fold among the EFIGA compared with the NIA-LOAD/NCRAD families (1.71).
The incidence rates for familial dementia and LOAD in the NIA-LOAD/NCRAD and EFIGA families are significantly higher than population-based estimates. The incidence rates in all groups increase with age. The higher incidence of LOAD can be explained by segregation of Alzheimer disease–related genes in these families or shared environmental risks.
PMCID: PMC4000602  PMID: 24425039
7.  C9ORF72 repeat expansions in cases with previously identified pathogenic mutations 
Neurology  2013;81(15):1332-1341.
To identify potential genetic modifiers contributing to the phenotypic variability that is detected in patients with repeat expansions in chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72), we investigated the frequency of these expansions in a cohort of 334 subjects previously found to carry mutations in genes known to be associated with a spectrum of neurodegenerative diseases.
A 2-step protocol, with a fluorescent PCR and a repeat-primed PCR, was used to determine the presence of hexanucleotide expansions in C9ORF72. For one double mutant, we performed Southern blots to assess expansion sizes, and immunohistochemistry to characterize neuropathology.
We detected C9ORF72 repeat expansions in 4 of 334 subjects (1.2% [or 1.8% of 217 families]). All these subjects had behavioral phenotypes and also harbored well-known pathogenic mutations in either progranulin (GRN: p.C466LfsX46, p.R493X, p.C31LfsX35) or microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT: p.P301L). Southern blotting of one double mutant with a p.C466LfsX46 GRN mutation demonstrated a long repeat expansion in brain (>3,000 repeats), and immunohistochemistry showed mixed neuropathology with characteristics of both C9ORF72 expansions and GRN mutations.
Our findings indicate that co-occurrence of 2 evidently pathogenic mutations could contribute to the pleiotropy that is detected in patients with C9ORF72 repeat expansions. These findings suggest that patients with known mutations should not be excluded from further studies, and that genetic counselors should be aware of this phenomenon when advising patients and their family members.
PMCID: PMC3806926  PMID: 24027057
8.  Corticospinal tract degeneration associated with TDP-43 type C pathology and semantic dementia 
Brain  2013;136(2):455-470.
Four subtypes of frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43 immunoreactive inclusions have been described (types A–D). Of these four subtypes, motor neuron disease is more commonly associated with type B pathology, but has also been reported with type A pathology. We have noted, however, the unusual occurrence of cases of type C pathology having corticospinal tract degeneration. We aimed to assess the severity of corticospinal tract degeneration in a large cohort of cases with type C (n = 31). Pathological analysis included semi-quantitation of myelin loss of fibres of the corticospinal tract and associated macrophage burden, as well as axonal loss, at the level of the medullary pyramids. We also assessed for motor cortex degeneration and fibre loss of the medial lemniscus/olivocerebellar tract. All cases were subdivided into three groups based on the degree of corticospinal tract degeneration: (i) no corticospinal tract degeneration; (ii) equivocal corticospinal tract degeneration; and (iii) moderate to very severe corticospinal tract degeneration. Clinical, genetic, pathological and imaging comparisons were performed across groups. Eight cases had no corticospinal tract degeneration, and 14 cases had equivocal to mild corticospinal tract degeneration. Nine cases, however, had moderate to very severe corticospinal tract degeneration with myelin and axonal loss. In these nine cases, there was degeneration of the motor cortex without lower motor neuron degeneration or involvement of other brainstem tracts. These cases most commonly presented as semantic dementia, and they had longer disease duration (mean: 15.3 years) compared with the other two groups (10.8 and 9.9 years; P = 0.03). After adjusting for disease duration, severity of corticospinal tract degeneration remained significantly different across groups. Only one case, without corticospinal tract degeneration, was found to have a hexanucleotide repeat expansion in the C9ORF72 gene. All three groups were associated with anterior temporal lobe atrophy on MRI; however, the cases with moderate to severe corticospinal tract degeneration showed right-sided temporal lobe asymmetry and greater involvement of the right temporal lobe and superior motor cortices than the other groups. In contrast, the cases with no or equivocal corticospinal tract degeneration were more likely to show left-sided temporal lobe asymmetry. For comparison, the corticospinal tract was assessed in 86 type A and B cases, and only two cases showed evidence of corticospinal tract degeneration without lower motor neuron degeneration. These findings confirm that there exists a unique association between frontotemporal lobar degeneration with type C pathology and corticospinal tract degeneration, with this entity showing a predilection to involve the right temporal lobe.
PMCID: PMC3572926  PMID: 23358603
TDP-43 type C; corticospinal tract; MRI; semantic dementia; right temporal lobe
9.  Polysomnographic Findings in Dementia With Lewy Bodies 
The neurologist  2013;19(1):1-6.
The clinical features of dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) during wakefulness are well known. Other than REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD), only limited data exists on other sleep disturbances and disorders in DLB. We sought to characterize the polysomnographic (PSG) findings in a series of DLB patients with sleep-related complaints.
Retrospective study of patients with DLB who underwent clinical PSG at Mayo Clinic Rochester or Mayo Clinic Jacksonville over an almost 11 year span for evaluation of dream enactment behavior, excessive nocturnal movements, sleep apnea, hypersomnolence, or insomnia. The following variables were analyzed: respiratory disturbance index (RDI) in disordered breathing events/hour, periodic limb movement arousal index (PLMAI), arousals for no apparent reason (AFNAR), total arousal index (TAI), presence of REM sleep without atonia (RSWA), and percent sleep efficiency (SE).
Data on 78 patients (71M, 7F) were analyzed. The mean age was 71 ± 8 years. Seventy-five (96%) patients had histories of recurrent dream enactment during sleep with 83% showing confirmation of RSWA +/- dream enactment during PSG. Mean RDI = 11.9 ± 5.8, PLMAI = 5.9 ± 8.5, AFNARI = 10.7 ± 12.0, and TAI = 26.6 ± 17.4. SE was <80% in 72% of the sample, <70% in 49%, and <60% in 24%. In patients who did not show evidence of significant disordered breathing (23 with RDI<5), 62% of arousals were AFNARs. In those patients who had significant disordered breathing (55 with RDI ≥ 5), 36% of arousals were AFNARs. Six patients underwent evaluations with PSG plus MSLT. Two patients had mean initial sleep latencies less than five minutes, and both had RDI<5. No patient had any sleep onset rapid eye movement periods. Nineteen patients have undergone neuropathologic examination, and 18 have had limbic- or neocortical-predominant Lewy body pathology. One had progressive supranuclear palsy, but no REM sleep was recorded in prior PSG.
In patients with DLB and sleep-related complaints, several sleep disturbances in addition to RBD are frequently present. In this sample, about three quarters had a significant number of arousals not accounted for by a movement or breathing disturbance, and the primary sleep disorders do not appear to entirely account for the poor sleep efficiency in DLB, especially in those without a significant breathing disorder. Further studies are warranted to better understand the relationship between disturbed sleep, arousal and DLB; such characterization may provide insights into potential avenues of treatment of symptoms which could impact quality of life.
PMCID: PMC3587292  PMID: 23269098
Sleep disorders; REM sleep behavior disorder; dementia with Lewy bodies; synucleinopathy
10.  Length of normal alleles of C9ORF72 GGGGCC repeat do not influence disease phenotype 
Neurobiology of aging  2012;33(12):2950.e5-2950.e7.
Expansions of the non-coding GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat in the chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72) gene were recently identified as the long sought-after cause of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) on chromosome 9p. In this study we aimed to determine whether the length of the normal - unexpanded - allele of the GGGGCC repeat in C9ORF72 plays a role in the presentation of disease or affects age at onset in C9ORF72 mutation carriers. We also studied whether the GGGGCC repeat length confers risk or affects age at onset in FTD and ALS patients without C9ORF72 repeat expansions. C9ORF72 genotyping was performed in 580 FTD, 995 ALS and 160 FTD-ALS patients and 1444 controls, leading to the identification of 211 patients with pathogenic C9ORF72 repeat expansions and an accurate quantification of the length of the normal alleles in all patients and controls. No meaningful association between the repeat length of the normal alleles of the GGGGCC repeat in C9ORF72 and disease phenotype or age at onset was observed in C9ORF72 mutation carriers or non-mutation carriers.
PMCID: PMC3617405  PMID: 22840558
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Frontotemporal Dementia; C9ORF72; Repeat-expansion disease; Association study
11.  C9ORF72 hexanucleotide repeat expansions in clinical Alzheimer’s disease 
JAMA neurology  2013;70(6):736-741.
Hexanucleotide repeat expansions in C9ORF72 underlie a significant fraction of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This study investigates the frequency of C9ORF72 repeat expansions in clinically diagnosed late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Design, setting and patients
This case-control study genotyped the C9ORF72 repeat expansion in 872 unrelated familial AD cases and 888 controls recruited as part of the NIA-LOAD cohort, a multi-site collaboration studying 1000 families with two or more individuals clinically diagnosed with late-onset-AD.
Main Outcome Measure
We determined the presence or absence of the C9ORF72 repeat expansion by repeat-primed PCR, the length of the longest non-expanded allele, segregation of the genotype with disease, and clinical features of repeat expansion carriers.
Three families showed large C9ORF72 hexanucleotide repeat expansions. Two additional families carried more than 30 repeats. Segregation with disease could be demonstrated in 3 families. One affected expansion carrier had neuropathology compatible with AD. In the NIA-LOAD series, the C9ORF72 repeat expansions constituted the second most common pathogenic mutation, just behind the PSEN1 A79V mutation, highlighting the heterogeneity of clinical presentations associated with repeat expansions.
C9ORF72 repeat expansions explain a small proportion of patients with a clinical presentation indistinguishable from AD, and highlight the necessity of screening “FTD genes” in clinical AD cases with strong family history.
PMCID: PMC3681841  PMID: 23588422
12.  Patterns of Brain Atrophy in Clinical Variants of Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration 
The clinical syndromes of frontotemporal lobar degeneration include behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) and semantic (SV-PPA) and nonfluent variants (NF-PPA) of primary progressive aphasia. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), tensor-based morphometry (TBM) was used to determine distinct patterns of atrophy between these three clinical groups.
Twenty-seven participants diagnosed with bvFTD, 16 with SV-PPA, and 19 with NF-PPA received baseline and follow-up MRI scans approximately 1 year apart. TBM was used to create three-dimensional Jacobian maps of local brain atrophy rates for individual subjects.
Regional analyses were performed on the three-dimensional maps and direct comparisons between groups (corrected for multiple comparisons using permutation tests) revealed significantly greater frontal lobe and frontal white matter atrophy in the bvFTD relative to the SV-PPA group (p < 0.005). The SV-PPA subjects exhibited significantly greater atrophy than the bvFTD in the fusiform gyrus (p = 0.007). The NF-PPA group showed significantly more atrophy in the parietal lobes relative to both bvFTD and SV-PPA groups (p < 0.05). Percent volume change in ventromedial prefrontal cortex was significantly associated with baseline behavioral symptomatology.
The bvFTD, SV-PPA, and NF-PPA groups displayed distinct patterns of progressive atrophy over a 1-year period that correspond well to the behavioral disturbances characteristic of the clinical syndromes. More specifically, the bvFTD group showed significant white matter contraction and presence of behavioral symptoms at baseline predicted significant volume loss of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex.
PMCID: PMC3609420  PMID: 23306166
Frontotemporal dementia; Primary progressive aphasia; Longitudinal study; Magnetic resonance imaging; Tensor-based morphometry; White matter
13.  Neuropathological features of corticobasal degeneration presenting as corticobasal syndrome or Richardson syndrome 
Brain  2011;134(11):3264-3275.
Patients with corticobasal degeneration can present with several different clinical syndromes, making ante-mortem diagnosis a challenge. Corticobasal syndrome is the clinical phenotype originally described for corticobasal degeneration, characterized by asymmetric rigidity and apraxia, cortical sensory deficits, dystonia and myoclonus. Some patients do not develop these features, but instead have clinical features consistent with the Richardson syndrome presentation of progressive supranuclear palsy, characterized by postural instability, early unexplained falls, vertical supranuclear gaze palsy, symmetric motor disability and dysphagia. The aim of this study was to identify differences in corticobasal degeneration presenting with corticobasal syndrome (n = 11) or Richardson syndrome (n = 15) with respect to demographic, clinical and neuropathological features. Corticobasal degeneration cases were also compared with patients with pathologically proven progressive supranuclear palsy with Richardson syndrome (n = 15). Cases with corticobasal degeneration, regardless of presentation, shared histopathological and tau biochemical characteristics, but they had differing densities of tau pathology in neuroanatomical regions that correlated with their clinical presentation. In particular, those with corticobasal syndrome had greater tau pathology in the primary motor and somatosensory cortices and putamen, while those with Richardson syndrome had greater tau pathology in limbic and hindbrain structures. Compared with progressive supranuclear palsy, patients with corticobasal degeneration and Richardson syndrome had less neuronal loss in the subthalamic nucleus, but more severe neuronal loss in the medial substantia nigra and greater atrophy of the anterior corpus callosum. Clinically, they had more cognitive impairment and frontal behavioural dysfunction. The results suggest that Richardson syndrome can be a clinicopathological presentation of corticobasal degeneration. Atrophy of anterior corpus callosum may be a potential neuroimaging marker to differentiate corticobasal degeneration from progressive supranuclear palsy in patients with Richardson syndrome.
PMCID: PMC3212714  PMID: 21933807
pathology; immunocytochemistry; progressive supranuclear palsy; tau protein; corticobasal degeneration
14.  Ataxin-2 repeat-length variation and neurodegeneration 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;20(16):3207-3212.
Expanded glutamine repeats of the ataxin-2 (ATXN2) protein cause spinocerebellar ataxia type 2 (SCA2), a rare neurodegenerative disorder. More recent studies have suggested that expanded ATXN2 repeats are a genetic risk factor for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) via an RNA-dependent interaction with TDP-43. Given the phenotypic diversity observed in SCA2 patients, we set out to determine the polymorphic nature of the ATXN2 repeat length across a spectrum of neurodegenerative disorders. In this study, we genotyped the ATXN2 repeat in 3919 neurodegenerative disease patients and 4877 healthy controls and performed logistic regression analysis to determine the association of repeat length with the risk of disease. We confirmed the presence of a significantly higher number of expanded ATXN2 repeat carriers in ALS patients compared with healthy controls (OR = 5.57; P= 0.001; repeat length >30 units). Furthermore, we observed significant association of expanded ATXN2 repeats with the development of progressive supranuclear palsy (OR = 5.83; P= 0.004; repeat length >30 units). Although expanded repeat carriers were also identified in frontotemporal lobar degeneration, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease patients, these were not significantly more frequent than in controls. Of note, our study identified a number of healthy control individuals who harbor expanded repeat alleles (31–33 units), which suggests caution should be taken when attributing specific disease phenotypes to these repeat lengths. In conclusion, our findings confirm the role of ATXN2 as an important risk factor for ALS and support the hypothesis that expanded ATXN2 repeats may predispose to other neurodegenerative diseases, including progressive supranuclear palsy.
PMCID: PMC3140823  PMID: 21610160
16.  Validation of the Mayo Sleep Questionnaire to Screen for REM Sleep Behavior Disorder in an Aging and Dementia Cohort 
Sleep medicine  2011;12(5):445-453.
To validate a questionnaire focused on REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) among participants in an aging and dementia cohort.
RBD is a parasomnia that can develop in otherwise neurologically-normal adults as well as in those with a neurodegenerative disease. Confirmation of RBD requires polysomnography (PSG). A simple screening measure for RBD would be desirable for clinical and research purposes.
We had previously developed the Mayo Sleep Questionnaire (MSQ), a 16 item measure, to screen for the presence of RBD and other sleep disorders. We assessed the validity of the MSQ by comparing the responses of patients’ bed partners with the findings on PSG. All subjects recruited in the Mayo Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Mayo Clinic Rochester and Mayo Clinic Jacksonville from 1/00 to 7/08 who had also undergone a PSG were the focus of this analysis.
The study sample was comprised of 176 subjects [150 male; median age 71 years (range 39–90)], with the following clinical diagnoses: normal (n=8), mild cognitive impairment (n=44), Alzheimer’s disease (n=23), dementia with Lewy bodies (n=74), as well as other dementia and/or parkinsonian syndromes (n=27). The core question on recurrent dream enactment behavior yielded a sensitivity (SN) of 98% and specificity (SP) of 74% for the diagnosis of RBD. The profile of responses on four additional subquestions on RBD and one on obstructive sleep apnea improved specificity.
These data suggest that among aged subjects with cognitive impairment and/or parkinsonism, the MSQ has adequate SN and SP for the diagnosis of RBD. The utility of this scale in other patient populations will require further study.
PMCID: PMC3083495  PMID: 21349763
sleep disorders; parasomnias; dementia; Alzheimer’s disease; dementia with Lewy bodies; parkinsonism
17.  Genetic and Clinical Features of Progranulin-Associated Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration 
Archives of neurology  2011;68(4):488-497.
To assess the relative frequency of unique mutations and their associated characteristics in 97 individuals with mutations in progranulin (GRN), an important cause of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD).
Participants and Design
A 46-site International Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration Collaboration was formed to collect cases of FTLD with TAR DNA-binding protein of 43-kDa (TDP-43)–positive inclusions (FTLD-TDP). We identified 97 individuals with FTLD-TDP with pathogenic GRN mutations (GRN+ FTLD-TDP), assessed their genetic and clinical characteristics, and compared them with 453 patients with FTLD-TDP in which GRN mutations were excluded (GRN− FTLD-TDP). No patients were known to be related. Neuropathologic characteristics were confirmed as FTLD-TDP in 79 of the 97 GRN+ FTLDTDP cases and all of the GRN− FTLD-TDP cases.
Age at onset of FTLD was younger in patients with GRN+ FTLD-TDP vs GRN− FTLD-TDP (median, 58.0 vs 61.0 years; P<.001), as was age at death (median, 65.5 vs 69.0 years; P<.001). Concomitant motor neuron disease was much less common in GRN+ FTLDTDP vs GRN− FTLD-TDP (5.4% vs 26.3%; P<.001). Fifty different GRN mutations were observed, including 2 novel mutations: c.139delG (p.D47TfsX7) and c.378C>A (p.C126X). The 2 most common GRN mutations were c.1477C>T (p.R493X, found in 18 patients, representing 18.6% of GRN cases) and c.26C>A (p.A9D, found in 6 patients, representing 6.2% of cases). Patients with the c.1477C>T mutation shared a haplotype on chromosome 17; clinically, they resembled patients with other GRN mutations. Patients with the c.26C>A mutation appeared to have a younger age at onset of FTLD and at death and more parkinsonian features than those with other GRN mutations.
GRN+ FTLD-TDP differs in key features from GRN− FTLD-TDP.
PMCID: PMC3160280  PMID: 21482928
18.  Characterization of frontotemporal dementia and/or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis associated with the GGGGCC repeat expansion in C9ORF72 
Brain  2012;135(3):765-783.
Numerous kindreds with familial frontotemporal dementia and/or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis have been linked to chromosome 9, and an expansion of the GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat in the non-coding region of chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 has recently been identified as the pathogenic mechanism. We describe the key characteristics in the probands and their affected relatives who have been evaluated at Mayo Clinic Rochester or Mayo Clinic Florida in whom the hexanucleotide repeat expansion were found. Forty-three probands and 10 of their affected relatives with DNA available (total 53 subjects) were shown to carry the hexanucleotide repeat expansion. Thirty-six (84%) of the 43 probands had a familial disorder, whereas seven (16%) appeared to be sporadic. Among examined subjects from the 43 families (n = 63), the age of onset ranged from 33 to 72 years (median 52 years) and survival ranged from 1 to 17 years, with the age of onset <40 years in six (10%) and >60 in 19 (30%). Clinical diagnoses among examined subjects included behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia with or without parkinsonism (n = 30), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (n = 18), frontotemporal dementia/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with or without parkinsonism (n = 12), and other various syndromes (n = 3). Parkinsonism was present in 35% of examined subjects, all of whom had behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia or frontotemporal dementia/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis as the dominant clinical phenotype. No subject with a diagnosis of primary progressive aphasia was identified with this mutation. Incomplete penetrance was suggested in two kindreds, and the youngest generation had significantly earlier age of onset (>10 years) compared with the next oldest generation in 11 kindreds. Neuropsychological testing showed a profile of slowed processing speed, complex attention/executive dysfunction, and impairment in rapid word retrieval. Neuroimaging studies showed bilateral frontal abnormalities most consistently, with more variable degrees of parietal with or without temporal changes; no case had strikingly focal or asymmetric findings. Neuropathological examination of 14 patients revealed a range of transactive response DNA binding protein molecular weight 43 pathology (10 type A and four type B), as well as ubiquitin-positive cerebellar granular neuron inclusions in all but one case. Motor neuron degeneration was detected in nine patients, including five patients without ante-mortem signs of motor neuron disease. While variability exists, most cases with this mutation have a characteristic spectrum of demographic, clinical, neuropsychological, neuroimaging and especially neuropathological findings.
PMCID: PMC3286335  PMID: 22366793
frontotemporal dementia; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; motor neuron disease; TDP-43; neurogenetics; chromosome 9
19.  Rare Variants in APP, PSEN1 and PSEN2 Increase Risk for AD in Late-Onset Alzheimer's Disease Families 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31039.
Pathogenic mutations in APP, PSEN1, PSEN2, MAPT and GRN have previously been linked to familial early onset forms of dementia. Mutation screening in these genes has been performed in either very small series or in single families with late onset AD (LOAD). Similarly, studies in single families have reported mutations in MAPT and GRN associated with clinical AD but no systematic screen of a large dataset has been performed to determine how frequently this occurs. We report sequence data for 439 probands from late-onset AD families with a history of four or more affected individuals. Sixty sequenced individuals (13.7%) carried a novel or pathogenic mutation. Eight pathogenic variants, (one each in APP and MAPT, two in PSEN1 and four in GRN) three of which are novel, were found in 14 samples. Thirteen additional variants, present in 23 families, did not segregate with disease, but the frequency of these variants is higher in AD cases than controls, indicating that these variants may also modify risk for disease. The frequency of rare variants in these genes in this series is significantly higher than in the 1,000 genome project (p = 5.09×10−5; OR = 2.21; 95%CI = 1.49–3.28) or an unselected population of 12,481 samples (p = 6.82×10−5; OR = 2.19; 95%CI = 1.347–3.26). Rare coding variants in APP, PSEN1 and PSEN2, increase risk for or cause late onset AD. The presence of variants in these genes in LOAD and early-onset AD demonstrates that factors other than the mutation can impact the age at onset and penetrance of at least some variants associated with AD. MAPT and GRN mutations can be found in clinical series of AD most likely due to misdiagnosis. This study clearly demonstrates that rare variants in these genes could explain an important proportion of genetic heritability of AD, which is not detected by GWAS.
PMCID: PMC3270040  PMID: 22312439
20.  Prominent Phenotypic Variability Associated with Mutations in Progranulin 
Neurobiology of aging  2007;30(5):739-751.
Mutations in progranulin (PGRN) are associated with frontotemporal dementia with or without parkinsonism. We describe the prominent phenotypic variability within and among eight kindreds evaluated at Mayo Clinic Rochester and/or Mayo Clinic Jacksonville in whom mutations in PGRN were found. All available clinical, genetic, neuroimaging and neuropathologic data was reviewed. Age of onset ranged from 49 to 88 years and disease duration ranged from 1 to 14 years. Clinical diagnoses included frontotemporal dementia (FTD), primary progressive aphasia, FTD with parkinsonism, parkinsonism, corticobasal syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, amnestic mild cognitive impairment, and others. One kindred exhibited maximal right cerebral hemispheric atrophy in all four affected individuals, while another had maximal left hemisphere involvement in all three of the affected. Neuropathologic examination of 13 subjects revealed frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitin-positive inclusions plus neuronal intranuclear inclusions in all cases. Age of onset, clinical phenotypes and MRI findings associated with most PGRN mutations varied significantly both within and among kindreds. Some kindreds with PGRN mutations exhibited lateralized topography of degeneration across all affected individuals.
PMCID: PMC3164546  PMID: 17949857
Frontotemporal dementia; FTDP-17; Progranulin; PGRN; MRI
21.  Development of methodology for conducting clinical trials in frontotemporal lobar degeneration 
Brain  2008;131(11):2957-2968.
To design clinical trials for the frontotemporal lobar degenerations (FTLD), knowledge about measurement of disease progression is needed to estimate power and enable the choice of optimal outcome measures. The aim here was to conduct a multicentre, 1 year replica of a clinical trial in patients with one of four FTLD syndromes, behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD), progressive nonfluent aphasia (PNFA), progressive logopenic aphasia (PLA) and semantic dementia (SMD). Patients with one of the four FTLD syndromes were recruited from five academic medical centres over a 2 year period. Standard operationalized diagnostic criteria were used. In addition to clinical inclusion and exclusion criteria, patients were required to exhibit focal frontal, temporal or insular brain atrophy or dysfunction by neuroimaging. Patients underwent neuropsychological, functional, behavioural, neurological and MR imaging assessment at baseline and approximately 12 months later. Potential outcome measures were examined for their rates of floor and ceiling values at baseline and end of study, their mean changes and variances. The neuropsychological tests were combined into two cognitive composites—one for language functions and the other for executive functions. There were 107 patients who underwent baseline assessment and 78 who completed a follow-up assessment within 10–16 months. Two global measures, the FTLD-modified Clinical Dementia Rating (FTLD-modified CDR) and the Clinical Global Impression of Change (CGIC) demonstrated decline in the majority of patients. Several cognitive measures showed negligible floor or ceiling scores either at baseline or follow-up. Scores declined at follow-up in the majority of patients. The cognitive, executive and combined composites were shown to be sensitive to change across all FTLD syndromes. Patients improved at follow-up on the behavioural scales—the Frontal Behavioural Inventory (22%) and the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (28%)—suggesting that these instruments may not be ideal for clinical trial use. It was feasible to recruit FTLD patients in a simulated multi-centre trial. There are several candidate outcome measures—including the FTLD-CDR and the cognitive composites— that could be used in clinical trials across the spectrum of FTLD.
PMCID: PMC2725027  PMID: 18829698
frontotemporal dementia; clinical trials; neuropsychology
22.  Progressive aphasia secondary to Alzheimer disease pathology: A clinicopathologic and MRI study 
Neurology  2008;70(1):25-34.
The pathology causing progressive aphasia is typically a variant of frontotemporal lobar degeneration, especially with ubiquitin-positive-inclusions (FTLD-U). Less commonly the underlying pathology is Alzheimer disease (AD).
To compare clinicopathological and MRI features of subjects with progressive aphasia and AD pathology, to subjects with aphasia and FTLD-U pathology, and subjects with typical AD.
We identified 5 subjects with aphasia and AD pathology and 5 with aphasia and FTLD-U pathology with an MRI from a total of 216 aphasia subjects. Ten subjects with typical AD clinical features and AD pathology were also identified. All subjects with AD pathology underwent pathological re-analysis with TDP-43 immunohistochemistry. Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) was used to assess patterns of grey matter atrophy in the aphasia cases with AD pathology, aphasia cases with FTLD-U, and typical AD cases with AD pathology, compared to a normal control group.
All aphasic subjects had fluent speech output. However, those with AD pathology had better processing speed than those with FTLD-U pathology. Immunohistochemistry with TDP-43 antibodies was negative. VBM revealed grey matter atrophy predominantly in the temporoparietal cortices with notable sparing of the hippocampus in the aphasia with AD subjects. In comparison, the aphasic subjects with FTLD-U showed sparing of the parietal lobe. Typical AD subjects showed temporoparietal and hippocampal atrophy.
A temporoparietal pattern of atrophy on MRI in patients with progressive fluent aphasia and relatively preserved processing speed is suggestive of underlying AD pathology rather than FTLD-U.
PMCID: PMC2749307  PMID: 18166704
Primary progressive aphasia; Progressive non-fluent aphasia; Logopenic progressive aphasia; frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitin-only-immunoreactive changes; Voxel based morphometry
23.  Validation of the Neuropathologic Criteria of the Third Consortium for Dementia with Lewy Bodies for Prospectively Diagnosed Cases 
There is limited information on the validity of the pathological criteria of the Third Consortium on Dementia with Lewy bodies (CDLB) and none based upon prospectively diagnosed cases. In this study the core clinical features of dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) and the suggestive clinical feature of rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder were assessed using a battery of standardized clinical instruments in 76 patients with the clinical diagnosis of either DLB or Alzheimer disease. At autopsy, 29 patients had high-likelihood, 17 had intermediate-likelihood and 6 had low-likelihood DLB pathology. The frequency of core clinical features and the accuracy of the clinical diagnosis of probable DLB were significantly greater in high-likelihood than in low-likelihood cases. This is consistent with the concept that the DLB clinical syndrome is directly related to Lewy body pathology and inversely related to Alzheimer pathology. Thus, the Third CDLB neuropathological criteria scheme performed reasonably well and is useful for estimating the likelihood of the premortem DLB syndrome based upon postmortem findings. In view of differences in the frequency of clinically probable DLB in cases with Braak NFT stages V (90%) and VI (20%) and diffuse cortical Lewy bodies, a possible modification of the scheme considering cases with NFT stage VI to be low-likelihood DLB is suggested.
PMCID: PMC2745052  PMID: 18596548
Alzheimer disease; α-synuclein; Clinicopathologic correlation; Diagnostic criteria; Dementia with Lewy bodies; Prospective study; REM behavior disorder
24.  Plasma progranulin levels predict progranulin mutation status in frontotemporal dementia patients and asymptomatic family members 
Brain  2009;132(3):583-591.
Mutations in the progranulin gene (GRN) are an important cause of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) with ubiquitin and TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP43)-positive pathology. The clinical presentation associated with GRN mutations is heterogeneous and may include clinical probable Alzheimer's disease. All GRN mutations identified thus far cause disease through a uniform disease mechanism, i.e. the loss of functional GRN or haploinsufficiency. To determine if expression of GRN in plasma could predict GRN mutation status and could be used as a biological marker, we optimized a GRN ELISA and studied plasma samples of a consecutive clinical FTLD series of 219 patients, 70 control individuals, 72 early-onset probable Alzheimer's disease patients and nine symptomatic and 18 asymptomatic relatives of GRN mutation families. All FTLD patients with GRN loss-of-function mutations showed significantly reduced levels of GRN in plasma to about one third of the levels observed in non-GRN carriers and control individuals (P < 0.001). No overlap in distributions of GRN levels was observed between the eight GRN loss-of-function mutation carriers (range: 53–94 ng/ml) and 191 non-GRN mutation carriers (range: 115–386 ng/ml). Similar low levels of GRN were identified in asymptomatic GRN mutation carriers. Importantly, ELISA analyses also identified one probable Alzheimer's disease patient (1.4%) carrying a loss-of-function mutation in GRN. Biochemical analyses further showed that the GRN ELISA only detects full-length GRN, no intermediate granulin fragments. This study demonstrates that using a GRN ELISA in plasma, pathogenic GRN mutations can be accurately detected in symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers. The ∼75% reduction in full-length GRN, suggests an unbalanced GRN metabolism in loss-of-function mutation carriers whereby more GRN is processed into granulins. We propose that plasma GRN levels could be used as a reliable and inexpensive tool to identify all GRN mutation carriers in early-onset dementia populations and asymptomatic at-risk individuals.
PMCID: PMC2664450  PMID: 19158106
Progranulin; ELISA; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Alzheimer's disease
25.  Novel Mutations in TARDBP (TDP-43) in Patients with Familial Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis 
PLoS Genetics  2008;4(9):e1000193.
The TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43) has been identified as the major disease protein in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitin inclusions (FTLD-U), defining a novel class of neurodegenerative conditions: the TDP-43 proteinopathies. The first pathogenic mutations in the gene encoding TDP-43 (TARDBP) were recently reported in familial and sporadic ALS patients, supporting a direct role for TDP-43 in neurodegeneration. In this study, we report the identification and functional analyses of two novel and one known mutation in TARDBP that we identified as a result of extensive mutation analyses in a cohort of 296 patients with variable neurodegenerative diseases associated with TDP-43 histopathology. Three different heterozygous missense mutations in exon 6 of TARDBP (p.M337V, p.N345K, and p.I383V) were identified in the analysis of 92 familial ALS patients (3.3%), while no mutations were detected in 24 patients with sporadic ALS or 180 patients with other TDP-43–positive neurodegenerative diseases. The presence of p.M337V, p.N345K, and p.I383V was excluded in 825 controls and 652 additional sporadic ALS patients. All three mutations affect highly conserved amino acid residues in the C-terminal part of TDP-43 known to be involved in protein-protein interactions. Biochemical analysis of TDP-43 in ALS patient cell lines revealed a substantial increase in caspase cleaved fragments, including the ∼25 kDa fragment, compared to control cell lines. Our findings support TARDBP mutations as a cause of ALS. Based on the specific C-terminal location of the mutations and the accumulation of a smaller C-terminal fragment, we speculate that TARDBP mutations may cause a toxic gain of function through novel protein interactions or intracellular accumulation of TDP-43 fragments leading to apoptosis.
Author Summary
The abnormal accumulation of disease proteins in neuronal cells of the brain is a characteristic feature of many neurodegenerative diseases. Rare mutations in the genes that encode the accumulating proteins have been identified in these disorders and are crucial for the development of cell and animal models used to study neurodegeneration. Recently, the TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43) was identified as the disease accumulating protein in patients with frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitin inclusions (FTLD-U) and in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). TDP-43 was also found in the brains of 20–30% of patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD). Here, we evaluated whether mutations in TDP-43 cause disease in a cohort of 296 patients presenting with FTLD, ALS or AD. We identified three missense mutations in three out of 92 familial ALS patients (3.3%), and no mutations in AD or FTLD patients. All the identified mutations clustered in exon 6, which codes for a highly conserved region in the C-terminal part of the TDP-43 protein, which is known to be involved in the interaction of TDP-43 with other proteins. We conclude that mutations in TDP-43 are a rare cause of familial ALS, but so far are not found in other neurodegenerative diseases.
PMCID: PMC2527686  PMID: 18802454

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