[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is a group of heterogeneous neurodegenerative diseases which includes tauopathies. In the central nervous system (CNS) tau is the major microtubule-associated protein (MAP) of neurons, promoting assembly and stabilization of microtubules (MTs) required for morphogenesis and axonal transport. Primary tauopathies are characterized by deposition of abnormal fibrils of tau in neuronal and glial cells, leading to neuronal death, brain atrophy and eventually dementia. In genetic tauopathies mutations of tau gene impair the ability of tau to bind to MTs, alter the normal ratio among tau isoforms and favor fibril formation. Recently, additional functions have been ascribed to tau and different pathogenetic mechanisms are then emerging. In fact, a role of tau in DNA protection and genome stability has been reported and chromosome aberrations have been found associated with tau mutations. Furthermore, newly structurally and functionally characterized mutations have suggested novel pathological features, such as a tendency to form oligomeric rather than fibrillar aggregates. Tau mutations affecting axonal transport and plasma membrane interaction have also been described. In this article, we will review the pathogenetic mechanisms underlying tau mutations, focusing in particular on the less common aspects, so far poorly investigated.
Preview · Article · Nov 2015 · Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: GRN, the gene coding for the progranulin (PGRN) protein, was recognized as a gene linked to frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). The first mutations identified were null mutations giving rise to haploinsufficiency. Missense mutations were subsequently detected, but only a small subset has been functionally investigated. We identified missense mutations (C105Y, A199V, and R298H) in FTLD cases with family history and/or with low plasma PGRN levels. The aim of this study was to determine their pathogenicity. We performed functional studies, analyzing PGRN expression, secretion, and cleavage by elastase. GRN C105Y affected both secretion and elastase cleavage, likely representing a pathogenic mutation. GRN A199V did not alter the physiological properties of PGRN and GRN R298H produced only moderate effects on PGRN secretion, indicating that their pathogenicity is uncertain. In the absence of strong segregation data and neuropathological examinations, genetic, biomarker, and functional studies can be applied to an algorithm to assess the likelihood of pathogenicity for a mutation. This information can improve our understanding of the complex mechanisms by which GRN mutations lead to FTLD.
No preview · Article · Nov 2015 · Neurobiology of aging
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is a very heterogeneous disorder. It is genetically linked to three major genes: microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT), progranulin (GRN), and C9ORF72. In particular, mutations in GRN account for 5-10% of all cases and give rise to a wide spectrum of clinical phenotypes, ranging from behavioral frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) to primary progressive aphasia, including progressive non fluent aphasia (PNFA) and semantic dementia, and corticobasal syndrome (CBS). We studied a family affected by FTLD whose members showed three different phenotypes: bvFTD, PNFA, and CBS. We performed plasma progranulin measurement before any genetic analyses and, due to the low level detected, we sequenced GRN and found the new mutation EX0-5' splice site A > G in the 5'-UTR region, where no pathogenic mutations had been previously demonstrated. Genetic analyses of MAPT and C9ORF72 were normal. GRN mRNA expression showed about 50% reduction caused by this mutation, and similar results were found for progranulin level. Testing of nonsense mediated RNA decay gave negative results, suggesting a different mechanism of mRNA degradation. In summary, the EX0-5' splice site A > G mutation widens the GRN regions affected by null mutations, including the 5'-UTR, and confirms once more the large phenotypic variability linked to GRN mutations.
No preview · Article · Jul 2014 · Journal of Alzheimer's disease: JAD
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background: The ItalianDIAfN project aims at laying the foundations for an Italian network of centres of excellence with the capabilities to recruit and assess families carrying mutations linked to familial Alzheimer's disease (fAD) or frontotemporal lobar degeneration (fFTLD). The first phase of the project aimed to define standard protocols for the recruitment and data collection of families with fAD and fFTLD.
Methods: A survey of local protocols for patients recruitment (including genetic counselling) and data collection (including clinical, neuropsychological, neuroimaging, molecular imaging, biological and neurophysiological assessment) was conducted. The major international protocols for the biomarkers assessment of fAD and fFTLD were also surveyed. Differences and commonalities among protocols were identified and discussed among ItalianDIAfN partners to reach consensus.
Results: The ItalianDIAfN network converged on a standard protocol for genetic counselling of patients with clinically diagnosed AD/FTLD and/or their at-risk-relatives. Genetic counselling will be provided by a multidisciplinary team, including a geneticist, a psychologist/psychiatrist, and a neurologist/geriatrician, according to the following schedule (Figure, left panel): (i) supportive and informational consultations; (ii) clinical, cognitive and personality assessment; (iii) genetic testing if appropriate; (iv) genetic status disclosure (for those who wish to know); (v) follow-up supportive consultations. A decision tree was developed to assist in the search of the mutation: for cases with abnormal CSF Aβ levels, AD mutations will be searched first; for cases with normal CSF values or data not available, the search for the mutation will be guided by the clinical phenotype first and the age at onset secondly (Figure, central panel). For the data collection, the ItalianDIAfN network converged on disease-specific, internationally compliant protocols as detailed in the Table.
Conclusions: A standard protocol for the assessment and the genetic counselling of fAD and fFTLD cases was defined. These protocols will now be validated on subjects from 12 families with a known pathogenic mutation for fAD or fFTLD (Figure, right panel). The procedures will be disseminated to reach academia, medical societies, and the public at large. The project will contribute to the most innovative initiatives under way in this field by increasing the pool of subjects for disease modifiers trials.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: 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.
METHODS: We did a two-stage genome-wide association study on clinical FTD, analysing samples from 3526 patients with FTD and 9402 healthy controls. To reduce genetic heterogeneity, all participants were of 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)) single-nucleotide polymorphisms.
FINDINGS: We identified novel associations exceeding the genome-wide significance threshold (p<5 × 10(-8)). Combined (joint) analyses of discovery and replication phases showed genome-wide significant association at 6p21.3, HLA locus (immune system), for rs9268877 (p=1·05 × 10(-8); odds ratio=1·204 [95% CI 1·11-1·30]), rs9268856 (p=5·51 × 10(-9); 0·809 [0·76-0·86]) and rs1980493 (p value=1·57 × 10(-8), 0·775 [0·69-0·86]) in the entire cohort. We also identified a potential novel locus at 11q14, encompassing RAB38/CTSC (the transcripts of which are related to lysosomal biology), for the behavioural FTD subtype for which joint analyses showed suggestive association for rs302668 (p=2·44 × 10(-7); 0·814 [0·71-0·92]). Analysis of expression and methylation quantitative trait loci data suggested that these loci might affect expression and methylation in cis.
INTERPRETATION: 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 to shed light on the pathomechanisms contributing to FTD
Full-text · Article · Jul 2014 · The Lancet Neurology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Tau is a major microtubule-associated protein in brain neurons. Its misfolding and accumulation cause neurodegenerative diseases characterized by brain atrophy and dementia, named tauopathies. Genetic forms are caused by mutations of microtubule-associated protein tau gene (MAPT). Tau is expressed also in nonneural tissues such as lymphocytes. Tau has been recently recognized as a multifunctional protein, and in particular, some findings supported a role in genome stability. In fact, peripheral cells of patients affected by frontotemporal dementia carrying different MAPT mutations showed structural and numerical chromosome aberrations. The aim of this study was to assess chromosome stability in peripheral cell from two animal models of genetic tauopathy, JNPL3 and PS19 mouse strains expressing the human tau carrying the P301L and P301S mutations, respectively, to confirm the previous data on humans. After demonstrating the presence of mutated tau in spleen, we performed standard cytogenetic analysis of splenic lymphocytes from homozygous and hemizygous JNPL3, hemizygous PS19, and relevant controls. Losses and gains of chromosomes (aneuploidy) were evaluated. We detected a significantly higher level of aneuploidy in JNPL3 and PS19 than in control mice. Moreover, in JNPL3, the aneuploidy was higher in homozygotes than in hemizygotes, demonstrating a gene dose effect, which appeared also to be age independent. Our results show that mutated tau is associated with chromosome instability. It is conceivable to hypothesize that in genetic tauopathies the aneuploidy may be present also in central nervous system, possibly contributing to neurodegeneration.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Expansion of a hexanucleotide repeat in the C9ORF72 gene has been identified as the most common pathogenic mutation in families with autosomal dominant frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Herein we investigated frequency and penetrance of the C9ORF72 hexanucleotide repeat pathological expansion in a large cohort of familial and sporadic FTLD and related disorders (FTLD and related disorders, n = 388; Controls, n = 201). Moreover, we weighed the impact of C9ORF72 genotype on clinical phenotype taking into account the hexanucleotide repeat units number as a possible disease modifier. In our cohort, the C9ORF72 pathological expansion: i) showed a prevalence of 7.5%; ii) showed a full penetrance by the age of 80; iii) was rarely found in sporadic patients; iv) was solely associated with FTLD; v) was mainly associated with bvFTD clinical subtype; and vi) was associated with earlier age of onset in the youngest generation compared with the previous generation within a pedigree. Interestingly, intermediate C9ORF72 expansion had a risk effect in familial/sporadic FTLD. Eventually, the C9ORF72 repeat units number influenced the disease phenotype in terms of age of onset and associated clinical subtype. Genome-wide studies in well characterized clinical cohorts will be essential in order to decipher pathways of disease expression in C9ORF72-associated neurodegeneration.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Microtubule-associated protein tau gene (MAPT) is one of the major genes linked to frontotemporal lobar degeneration, a group of neurodegenerative diseases clinically, pathologically, and genetically heterogeneous. In particular, MAPT mutations give rise to the subgroup of tauopathies. The pathogenetic mechanisms underlying the MAPT mutations so far described are the decreased ability of tau protein to promote microtubule polymerization (missense mutations) or the altered ratio of tau isoforms (splicing mutations), both leading to accumulation of hyperphosphorylated filamentous tau protein. Following a genetic screening of patients affected by frontotemporal lobar degeneration, we identified 2 MAPT mutations, V363I and V363A, leading to atypical clinical phenotypes, such as posterior cortical atrophy. We investigated in vitro features of the recombinant mutated tau isoforms and revealed unusual functional and structural characteristics such as an increased ability to promote microtubule polymerization and a tendency to form oligomeric instead of filamentous aggregates. Thus, we disclosed a greater than expected complexity of abnormal features of mutated tau isoforms. Overall our findings suggest a high probability that these mutations are pathogenic.
No preview · Article · Sep 2013 · Neurobiology of aging
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In addition to the main function of promoting polymerization and stabilization of microtubules, other roles are being attributed to tau, now considered a multifunctional protein. In particular, previous studies suggest that tau is involved in chromosome stability and genome protection. We performed cytogenetic analysis, including molecular karyotyping, on lymphocytes and fibroblasts from patients affected by frontotemporal lobar degeneration carrying different mutations in the microtubule-associated protein tau gene, to investigate the effects of these mutations on genome stability. Furthermore, we analyzed the response of mutated lymphoblastoid cell lines to genotoxic agents to evaluate the participation of tau to DNA repair systems. We found a significantly higher level of chromosome aberrations in mutated than in control cells. Mutated lymphocytes showed higher percentages of stable lesions, clonal and total aneuploidy (medians: 2 versus 0, p $\ll$ 0.01; 1.5 versus 0, p $\ll$ 0.01; 16.5 versus 0, p $\ll$ 0.01, respectively). Fibroblasts of patients showed higher percentages of stable lesions, structural aberrations and total aneuploidy (medians: 0 versus 0, p = 0.03; 5.8 versus 0, p = 0.02; 26.5 versus 12.6, p $\ll$ 0.01, respectively). In addition, the in depth analysis of DNA copy number variations showed a higher tendency to non-allelic homologous recombination in mutated cells. Finally, while our analysis did not support an involvement of tau in DNA repair systems, it revealed its role in stabilization of chromatin. In summary, our findings indicate a role of tau in genome and chromosome stability that can be ascribed to its function as a microtubule-associated protein as well as a protein protecting chromatin integrity through interaction with DNA.
Full-text · Article · Oct 2012 · Journal of Alzheimer's disease: JAD
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We performed hypothesis-free linkage analysis and exome sequencing in a family with two siblings who had neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (NCL). Two linkage peaks with maximum LOD scores of 3.07 and 2.97 were found on chromosomes 7 and 17, respectively. Unexpectedly, we found these siblings to be homozygous for a c.813_816del (p.Thr272Serfs∗10) mutation in the progranulin gene (GRN, granulin precursor) in the latter peak. Heterozygous mutations in GRN are a major cause of frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43 inclusions (FTLD-TDP), the second most common early-onset dementia. Reexamination of progranulin-deficient mice revealed rectilinear profiles typical of NCL. The age-at-onset and neuropathology of FTLD-TDP and NCL are markedly different. Our findings reveal an unanticipated link between a rare and a common neurological disorder and illustrate pleiotropic effects of a mutation in the heterozygous or homozygous states.
Full-text · Article · May 2012 · The American Journal of Human Genetics
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Recently, attention was drawn to a role for progranulin in the central nervous system with the identification of mutations in the progranulin gene (GRN) as an important cause of frontotemporal lobar degeneration. GRN mutations are associated with a strong reduction of circulating progranulin and widely variable clinical phenotypes: thus, the dosage of plasma progranulin is a useful tool for a quick and inexpensive large-scale screening of carriers of GRN mutations.
To establish the best cutoff threshold for normal versus abnormal levels of plasma progranulin.
309 cognitively healthy controls (25-87 years of age), 72 affected and unaffected GRN+ null mutation carriers (24-86 years of age), 3 affected GRN missense mutation carriers, 342 patients with neurodegenerative diseases and 293 subjects with mild cognitive impairment were enrolled at the Memory Clinic, IRCCS S. Giovanni di Dio-Fatebenefratelli, Brescia, Italy, and at the Alzheimer Unit, Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico and IRCCS Istituto Neurologico C. Besta, Milan, Italy. Plasma progranulin levels were measured using an ELISA kit (AdipoGen Inc., Seoul, Korea).
Plasma progranulin did not correlate with age, gender or body mass index. We established a new plasma progranulin protein cutoff level of 61.55 ng/ml that identifies, with a specificity of 99.6% and a sensitivity of 95.8%, null mutation carriers among subjects attending to a memory clinic. Affected and unaffected GRN null mutation carriers did not differ in terms of circulating progranulin protein (p = 0.686). A significant disease anticipation was observed in GRN+ subjects with the lowest progranulin levels.
We propose a new plasma progranulin protein cutoff level useful for clinical practice.
No preview · Article · Nov 2011 · Neurodegenerative Diseases
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) can be sporadic or familial. The genes encoding the microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT) and progranulin (GRN) are the most relevant genes so far known causing the hereditary forms. Following genetic screening of patients affected by FTLD, we identified 2 new MAPT mutations, P364S and G366R, the former in a sporadic case. In the study we report the clinical and genetic features of the patients carrying these mutations, and the functional effects of the mutations, analyzed in vitro in order to investigate their pathogenic character. Both mutations resulted in reduced ability of tau to promote microtubule polymerization; the P364S protein variant also showed a high propensity to aggregate into filaments. These results suggest a high probability that these mutations are pathogenic. Our findings highlight the importance of genetic analysis also in sporadic forms of FTLD, and the role of in vitro studies to evaluate the pathologic features of new mutations.
No preview · Article · Sep 2011 · Neurobiology of aging
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cortico-basal syndrome (CBS) is a rare neurodegenerative disease characterised by movement and cognitive disorders. It occurs along the spectrum of fronto-temporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), which also includes fronto-temporal dementia (FTD) and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). FTLD has recently been shown to be associated with mutations in GRN gene, coding for progranulin, a multifunctional secreted glycoprotein involved in cell cycle, inflammation and tissue repair. We describe the case of a 73-year-old man suffering from CBS with a family history of cognitive disorders belonging to the clinical spectrum of FTLD. Sequencing analysis of GRN in this patient revealed that the C157KfsX97 null mutation has been already described by Le Ber et al. in a French patient affected by an apparently sporadic form of FTD. This report confirms the variability of clinical phenotypes associated with the same mutation and emphasises the importance of genetic analysis in cases with a clear familiarity, as well as in apparently sporadic forms.
Full-text · Article · Jun 2011 · Neurological Sciences
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Mutations in the progranulin gene (GRN) were recently identified as an important cause of familial frontotemporal dementia (FTD). More than 60 pathogenic mutations have been reported up to now and prominent phenotypic variability within and among affected kindreds has been described. We have studied an Italian family with clinical evidence of dementia, and here we report detailed clinical records, imaging, sequential neurological examinations, cognitive assessments, and genetic analysis of three affected members of the same generation. Genetic analysis revealed the presence of the null mutation IVS6 + 5_8delGTGA in GRN, leading to haploinsufficiency, as documented by mRNA analysis. The mutation is associated with wide variation of the clinical phenotype, ranging from FTD to Alzheimer's disease and to a rapidly-progressive dementia. In summary, the patients of this kindred showed highly variable clinical features that do not have a close correspondence with the pattern of the cerebral atrophy. Our data extend the phenotypic spectrum and the complexity of neurodegenerative diseases linked to GRN mutations.
No preview · Article · Jun 2011 · Journal of Alzheimer's disease: JAD
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by behavioural disturbances and cognitive decline. Here we describe an Italian family with FTLD showing remarkable phenotypic heterogeneity. Based on low plasma levels of progranulin, we analyzed the progranulin gene (GRN) in two patients with early onset and found the novel frame-shift mutation T278SfsX7. mRNA analysis confirmed the null effect of the mutation. The patients were homozygous for H1 MAPT haplotype, a disease modifier factor that can account for early age at onset. Being predictive for GRN null mutations, plasma progranulin dosage should be included in diagnostic work-up of dementia.
No preview · Article · Oct 2010 · Journal of Alzheimer's disease: JAD
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To report the clinical, genetic, neuroimaging, and neuropathologic studies of patients with the hereditary cerebral hemorrhage with amyloidosis linked to the APP E693K mutation.
Case series. Clinical details and laboratory results were collected by direct evaluation and previous medical records. DNA analysis was carried out in several affected subjects and healthy individuals. Neuropathologic examination was performed in 2 subjects.
Southern Lombardy, Italy. Patients Individuals with and without amyloidosis in 4 unrelated Italian families (N = 37). Main Outcome Measure Genotype-phenotype relationship.
The affected individuals presented with recurrent headache and multiple strokes, followed by epilepsy and cognitive decline in most of them. The disease was inherited with an autosomal dominant trait and segregated with the APP E693K mutation. Neuroimaging demonstrated small to large hematomas, subarachnoid bleeding, scars with hemosiderin deposits, small infarcts, and leukoaraiosis. Amyloid-beta immunoreactivity was detected in the wall of leptomeningeal and parenchymal vessels and in the neuropil, whereas phosphorylated tau, neurofibrillary changes, and neuritic plaques were absent.
These findings expand the number of APP mutations linked to hereditary cerebral hemorrhage with amyloidosis, reinforcing the link between this phenotype and codon 693 of APP.
No preview · Article · Aug 2010 · Archives of neurology