TMEM106B is a transmembrane glycoprotein of unknown function located within endosome/lysosome compartments expressed ubiquitously in various cell types. Previously, the genome-wide association study (GWAS) identified a significant association of TMEM106B single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with development of frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitinated TAR DNA-binding protein-43 (TDP-43)-positive inclusions (FTLD-TDP), particularly in the patients exhibiting the progranulin (PGRN) gene (GRN) mutations. Recent studies indicate that TMEM106B plays a pathological role in various neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, at present, the precise levels of TMEM106B expression in AD brains remain unknown.
By quantitative reverse transcription (RT)-PCR (qPCR), western blot and immunohistochemistry, we studied TMEM106B and PGRN expression levels in a series of AD and control brains, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, multiple system atrophy and non-neurological cases.
In AD brains, TMEM106B mRNA and protein levels were significantly reduced, whereas PGRN mRNA levels were elevated, compared with the levels in non-AD brains. In all brains, TMEM106B was expressed in the majority of cortical neurons, hippocampal neurons, and some populations of oligodendrocytes, reactive astrocytes and microglia with the location in the cytoplasm. In AD brains, surviving neurons expressed intense TMEM106B immunoreactivity, while senile plaques, neurofibrillary tangles and the perivascular neuropil, almost devoid of TMEM106B, intensely expressed PGRN.
We found an inverse relationship between TMEM106B (downregulation) and PGRN (upregulation) expression levels in AD brains, suggesting a key role of TMEM106B in the pathological processes of AD.