The widening spectrum of C9ORF72-related disease; genotype/phenotype correlations and potential modifiers of clinical phenotype.
ABSTRACT: The GGGGCC (G4C2) repeat expansion in C9ORF72 is the most common cause of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), frontotemporal lobar dementia (FTLD) and ALS-FTLD, as well as contributing to sporadic forms of these diseases. Screening of large cohorts of ALS and FTLD cohorts has identified that C9ORF72-ALS is represented throughout the clinical spectrum of ALS phenotypes, though in comparison with other genetic subtypes, C9ORF72 carriers have a higher incidence of bulbar onset disease. In contrast, C9ORF72-FTLD is predominantly associated with behavioural variant FTD, which often presents with psychosis, most commonly in the form of hallucinations and delusions. However, C9ORF72 expansions are not restricted to these clinical phenotypes. There is a higher than expected incidence of parkinsonism in ALS patients with C9ORF72 expansions, and the G4C2 repeat has also been reported in other motor phenotypes, such as primary lateral sclerosis, progressive muscular atrophy, corticobasal syndrome and Huntington-like disorders. In addition, the expansion has been identified in non-motor phenotypes including Alzheimer's disease and Lewy body dementia. It is not currently understood what is the basis of the clinical variation seen with the G4C2 repeat expansion. One potential explanation is repeat length. Sizing of the expansion by Southern blotting has established that there is somatic heterogeneity, with different expansion lengths in different tissues, even within the brain. To date, no correlation with expansion size and clinical phenotype has been established in ALS, whilst in FTLD only repeat size in the cerebellum was found to correlate with disease duration. Somatic heterogeneity suggests there is a degree of instability within the repeat and evidence of anticipation has been reported with reducing age of onset in subsequent generations. This variability/instability in expansion length, along with its interactions with environmental and genetic modifiers, such as TMEM106B, may be the basis of the differing clinical phenotypes arising from the mutation.
Project description:Pathological expansion of a G4C2 repeat, located in the 5' regulatory region of C9orf72, is the most common genetic cause of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). C9orf72 patients have highly variable onset ages suggesting the presence of modifying factors and/or anticipation. We studied 72 Belgian index patients with FTLD, FTLD-ALS or ALS and 61 relatives with a C9orf72 repeat expansion. We assessed the effect of G4C2 expansion size on onset age, the role of anticipation and the effect of repeat size on methylation and C9orf72 promoter activity. G4C2 expansion sizes varied in blood between 45 and over 2100 repeat units with short expansions (45-78 units) present in 5.6% of 72 index patients with an expansion. Short expansions co-segregated with disease in two families. The subject with a short expansion in blood but an indication of mosaicism in brain showed the same pathology as those with a long expansion. Further, we provided evidence for an association of G4C2 expansion size with onset age (P<0.05) most likely explained by an association of methylation state of the 5' flanking CpG island and expansion size in blood (P<0.0001) and brain (P<0.05). In several informative C9orf72 parent-child transmissions, we identified earlier onset ages, increasing expansion sizes and/or increasing methylation states (P=0.0034) of the 5' CpG island, reminiscent of disease anticipation. Also, intermediate repeats (7-24 units) showed a slightly higher methylation degree (P<0.0001) and a decrease of C9orf72 promoter activity (P<0.0001) compared with normal short repeats (2-6 units). Decrease of transcriptional activity was even more prominent in the presence of small deletions flanking G4C2 (P<0.0001). Here we showed that increased methylation of CpGs in the C9orf72 promoter may explain how an increasing G4C2 size lead to loss-of-function without excluding repeat length-dependent toxic gain-of-function. These data provide insights into disease mechanisms and have important implications for diagnostic counseling and potential therapeutic approaches.
Project description:An expanded G4C2 repeat in C9orf72 represents the most common known genetic cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). However, the lower limit for pathological expansions is unknown (the suggested cutoff is 30 repeats). It has been proposed that the expansion might have occurred only once in human history and subsequently spread throughout the population. However, our present findings support a hypothesis of multiple origins for the expansion. We report a British-Canadian family in whom a ∼70-repeat allele from the father (unaffected by ALS or FTLD at age 89 years) expanded during parent-offspring transmission and started the first generation affected by ALS (four children carry an ∼1,750-repeat allele). Epigenetic and RNA-expression analyses further discriminated the offspring's large expansions (which were methylated and associated with reduced C9orf72 expression) from the ∼70-repeat allele (which was unmethylated and associated with upregulation of C9orf72). Moreover, RNA foci were only detected in fibroblasts from offspring with large expansions, but not in the father, who has the ∼70-repeat allele. All family members with expansions were found to have an ancient known risk haplotype, although it was inherited on a unique 5-Mb genetic backbone. We conclude that small expansions (e.g., 70 repeats) might be considered "pre-mutations" to reflect their propensity to expand in the next generation. Follow-up studies might help explain the high frequency of ALS- or FTLD-affected individuals with an expansion but without a familial history (e.g., 21% among Finnish ALS subjects).
Project description:Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is underpinned by an oligogenic rare variant architecture. Identified genetic variants of ALS include RNA-binding proteins containing prion-like domains (PrLDs). We hypothesized that screening genes encoding additional similar proteins will yield novel genetic causes of ALS. The most common genetic variant of ALS patients is a G4C2-repeat expansion within C9ORF72. We have shown that G4C2-repeat RNA sequesters RNA-binding proteins. A logical consequence of this is that loss-of-function mutations in G4C2-binding partners might contribute to ALS pathogenesis independently of and/or synergistically with C9ORF72 expansions. Targeted sequencing of genomic DNA encoding either RNA-binding proteins or known ALS genes (n = 274 genes) was performed in ALS patients to identify rare deleterious genetic variants and explore genotype-phenotype relationships. Genomic DNA was extracted from 103 ALS patients including 42 familial ALS patients and 61 young-onset (average age of onset 41 years) sporadic ALS patients; patients were chosen to maximize the probability of identifying genetic causes of ALS. Thirteen patients carried a G4C2-repeat expansion of C9ORF72. We identified 42 patients with rare deleterious variants; 6 patients carried more than one variant. Twelve mutations were discovered in known ALS genes which served as a validation of our strategy. Rare deleterious variants in RNA-binding proteins were significantly enriched in ALS patients compared to control frequencies (p = 5.31E-18). Nineteen patients featured at least one variant in a RNA-binding protein containing a PrLD. The number of variants per patient correlated with rate of disease progression (t-test, p = 0.033). We identified eighteen patients with a single variant in a G4C2-repeat binding protein. Patients with a G4C2-binding protein variant in combination with a C9ORF72 expansion had a significantly faster disease course (t-test, p = 0.025). Our data are consistent with an oligogenic model of ALS. We provide evidence for a number of entirely novel genetic variants of ALS caused by mutations in RNA-binding proteins. Moreover we show that these mutations act synergistically with each other and with C9ORF72 expansions to modify the clinical phenotype of ALS. A key finding is that this synergy is present only between functionally interacting variants. This work has significant implications for ALS therapy development.
Project description:Clinical and neuropathological characteristics associated with G4C2 repeat expansions in chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9ORF72), the most common genetic cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia, are highly variable. To gain insight on the molecular basis for the heterogeneity among C9ORF72 mutation carriers, we evaluated associations between features of disease and levels of two abundantly expressed "c9RAN proteins" produced by repeat-associated non-ATG (RAN) translation of the expanded repeat. For these studies, we took a departure from traditional immunohistochemical approaches and instead employed immunoassays to quantitatively measure poly(GP) and poly(GA) levels in cerebellum, frontal cortex, motor cortex, and/or hippocampus from 55 C9ORF72 mutation carriers [12 patients with ALS, 24 with frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) and 19 with FTLD with motor neuron disease (FTLD-MND)]. We additionally investigated associations between levels of poly(GP) or poly(GA) and cognitive impairment in 15 C9ORF72 ALS patients for whom neuropsychological data were available. Among the neuroanatomical regions investigated, poly(GP) levels were highest in the cerebellum. In this same region, associations between poly(GP) and both neuropathological and clinical features were detected. Specifically, cerebellar poly(GP) levels were significantly lower in patients with ALS compared to patients with FTLD or FTLD-MND. Furthermore, cerebellar poly(GP) associated with cognitive score in our cohort of 15 patients. In the cerebellum, poly(GA) levels similarly trended lower in the ALS subgroup compared to FTLD or FTLD-MND subgroups, but no association between cerebellar poly(GA) and cognitive score was detected. Both cerebellar poly(GP) and poly(GA) associated with C9ORF72 variant 3 mRNA expression, but not variant 1 expression, repeat size, disease onset, or survival after onset. Overall, these data indicate that cerebellar abnormalities, as evidenced by poly(GP) accumulation, associate with neuropathological and clinical phenotypes, in particular cognitive impairment, of C9ORF72 mutation carriers.
Project description:C9ORF72-hexanucleotide repeat expansions and ubiquilin-2 (UBQLN2) mutations are recently identified genetic markers in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). We investigate the relationship between C9ORF72 expansions and the clinical phenotype and neuropathology of ALS and FTLD. Genetic analysis and immunohistochemistry (IHC) were performed on autopsy-confirmed ALS (N = 75), FTLD-TDP (N = 30), AD (N = 14), and controls (N = 11). IHC for neurodegenerative disease pathology consisted of C9ORF72, UBQLN, p62, and TDP-43. A C9ORF72 expansion was identified in 19.4 % of ALS and 31 % of FTLD-TDP cases. ALS cases with C9ORF72 expansions frequently showed a bulbar onset of disease (57 %) and more rapid disease progression to death compared to non-expansion cases. Staining with C9ORF72 antibodies did not yield specific pathology. UBQLN pathology showed a highly distinct pattern in ALS and FTLD-TDP cases with the C9ORF72 expansion, with UBQLN-positive cytoplasmic inclusions in the cerebellar granular layer and extensive UBQLN-positive aggregates and dystrophic neurites in the hippocampal molecular layer and CA regions. These UBQLN pathologies were sufficiently unique to allow correct prediction of cases that were later confirmed to have C9ORF72 expansions by genetic analysis. UBQLN pathology partially co-localized with p62, and to a minor extent with TDP-43 positive dystrophic neurites and spinal cord skein-like inclusions. Our data indicate a pathophysiological link between C9ORF72 expansions and UBQLN proteins in ALS and FTLD-TDP that is associated with a highly characteristic pattern of UBQLN pathology. Our study indicates that this pathology is associated with alterations in clinical phenotype, and suggests that the presence of C9ORF72 repeat expansions may indicate a worse prognosis in ALS.
Project description:OBJECTIVE:To determine whether GGGGCC (G4C2) repeat expansions at loci other than C9orf72 serve as common causes of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). METHODS:We assessed G4C2 repeat number in 28 genes near known ALS and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) loci by repeat-primed PCR coupled with fluorescent fragment analysis in 199 patients with ALS (17 familial, 182 sporadic) and 136 healthy controls. We also obtained blood from patients with ALS4 for evaluation of repeats surrounding the SETX gene locus. C9orf72 expansions were evaluated in parallel. RESULTS:Expansions of G4C2 repeats in C9orf72 explained 8.8% of sporadic and 47% of familial ALS cases analyzed. Repeat variance was observed at one other locus, RGS14, but no large expansions were observed, and repeat sizes were not different between cases and controls. No G4C2 repeat expansions were identified at other ALS or FTD risk loci or in ALS4 cases. CONCLUSIONS:G4C2 expansions near known ALS and FTD loci other than C9orf72 are not a common cause of ALS.
Project description:Many neurodegenerative diseases are caused by nucleotide repeat expansions, but most expansions, like the C9orf72 'GGGGCC' (G4C2) repeat that causes approximately 5-7% of all amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) cases, are too long to sequence using short-read sequencing technologies. It is unclear whether long-read sequencing technologies can traverse these long, challenging repeat expansions. Here, we demonstrate that two long-read sequencing technologies, Pacific Biosciences' (PacBio) and Oxford Nanopore Technologies' (ONT), can sequence through disease-causing repeats cloned into plasmids, including the FTD/ALS-causing G4C2 repeat expansion. We also report the first long-read sequencing data characterizing the C9orf72 G4C2 repeat expansion at the nucleotide level in two symptomatic expansion carriers using PacBio whole-genome sequencing and a no-amplification (No-Amp) targeted approach based on CRISPR/Cas9.Both the PacBio and ONT platforms successfully sequenced through the repeat expansions in plasmids. Throughput on the MinION was a challenge for whole-genome sequencing; we were unable to attain reads covering the human C9orf72 repeat expansion using 15 flow cells. We obtained 8× coverage across the C9orf72 locus using the PacBio Sequel, accurately reporting the unexpanded allele at eight repeats, and reading through the entire expansion with 1324 repeats (7941 nucleotides). Using the No-Amp targeted approach, we attained >?800× coverage and were able to identify the unexpanded allele, closely estimate expansion size, and assess nucleotide content in a single experiment. We estimate the individual's repeat region was >?99% G4C2 content, though we cannot rule out small interruptions.Our findings indicate that long-read sequencing is well suited to characterizing known repeat expansions, and for discovering new disease-causing, disease-modifying, or risk-modifying repeat expansions that have gone undetected with conventional short-read sequencing. The PacBio No-Amp targeted approach may have future potential in clinical and genetic counseling environments. Larger and deeper long-read sequencing studies in C9orf72 expansion carriers will be important to determine heterogeneity and whether the repeats are interrupted by non-G4C2 content, potentially mitigating or modifying disease course or age of onset, as interruptions are known to do in other repeat-expansion disorders. These results have broad implications across all diseases where the genetic etiology remains unclear.
Project description:The G4C2 repeat expansion in C9orf72 is the most common known cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). We tested the hypothesis that the repeat expansion causes aberrant CpG methylation near the G4C2 repeat, which could be responsible for the downregulation of gene expression. We investigated the CpG methylation profile by two methods using genomic DNA from the blood of individuals with ALS (37 expansion carriers and 64 noncarriers), normal controls (n = 76), and family members of 7 ALS probands with the expansion. We report that hypermethylation of the CpG island 5' of the G4C2 repeat is associated with the presence of the expansion (p < 0.0001). A higher degree of methylation was significantly correlated with a shorter disease duration (p < 0.01), associated with familial ALS (p = 0.009) and segregated with the expansion in 7 investigated families. Notably, we did not detect methylation for either normal or intermediate alleles (up to 43 repeats), bringing to question the current cutoff of 30 repeats for pathological alleles. Our study raises several important questions for the future investigation of large data sets, such as whether the degree of methylation corresponds to clinical presentation (ALS versus FTLD).
Project description:Intronic hexanucleotide (G4C2) repeat expansions in C9orf72 are genetically associated with frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The repeat RNA accumulates within RNA foci but is also translated into disease characterizing dipeptide repeat proteins (DPR). Repeat-dependent toxicity may affect nuclear import. hnRNPA3 is a heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein, which specifically binds to the G4C2 repeat RNA We now report that a reduction of nuclear hnRNPA3 leads to an increase of the repeat RNA as well as DPR production and deposition in primary neurons and a novel tissue culture model that reproduces features of the C9orf72 pathology. In fibroblasts derived from patients carrying extended C9orf72 repeats, nuclear RNA foci accumulated upon reduction of hnRNPA3. Neurons in the hippocampus of C9orf72 patients are frequently devoid of hnRNPA3. Reduced nuclear hnRNPA3 in the hippocampus of patients with extended C9orf72 repeats correlates with increased DPR deposition. Thus, reduced hnRNPA3 expression in C9orf72 cases leads to increased levels of the repeat RNA as well as enhanced production and deposition of DPR proteins and RNA foci.
Project description:OBJECTIVE To estimate the allele frequency of C9orf72 (G4C2) repeats in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), Alzheimer disease (AD), and Parkinson disease (PD). DESIGN The number of repeats was estimated by a 2-step genotyping strategy. For expansion carriers, we sequenced the repeat flanking regions and obtained APOE genotypes and MAPT H1/H2 haplotypes. SETTING Hospitals specializing in neurodegenerative disorders. SUBJECTS We analyzed 520 patients with FTLD, 389 patients with ALS, 424 patients with AD, 289 patients with PD, 602 controls, 18 families, and 29 patients with PD with the LRRK2 G2019S mutation. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE The expansion frequency. RESULTS Based on a prior cutoff (>30 repeats), the expansion was detected in 9.3% of patients with ALS, 5.2% of patients with FTLD, and 0.7% of patients with PD but not in controls or patients with AD. It was significantly associated with family history of ALS or FTLD and age at onset of FTLD. Phenotype variation (ALS vs FTLD) was not associated with MAPT, APOE, or variability in the repeat flanking regions. Two patients with PD were carriers of 39 and 32 repeats with questionable pathological significance, since the 39-repeat allele does not segregate with PD. No expansion or intermediate alleles (20-29 repeats) were found among the G2019S carriers and AD cases with TAR DNA-binding protein 43-positive inclusions. Surprisingly, the frequency of the 10-repeat allele was marginally increased in all 4 neurodegenerative diseases compared with controls, indicating the presence of an unknown risk variation in the C9orf72 locus. CONCLUSIONS The C9orf72 expansion is a common cause of ALS and FTLD, but not of AD or PD. Our study raises concern about a reliable cutoff for the pathological repeat number, which is important in the utility of genetic screening.