Jump from pre-mutation to pathologic expansion in C9orf72.
ABSTRACT: 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:OBJECTIVE:Suggested C9orf72 disease mechanisms for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration include C9orf72 haploinsufficiency, G4C2/C4G2 RNA foci, and dipeptide repeat (DPR) proteins translated from the G4C2 expansion; however, the role of small expansions (e.g., 30-90 repeats) is unknown and was investigated here. METHODS:We conducted a molecular and pathology study of a family in which the father (unaffected at age 90) carried a 70-repeat allele in blood DNA that expanded to ?1,750 repeats in his children, causing ALS. RESULTS:Southern blotting revealed different degrees of mosaicism of small and large expansions in the father's tissues from the CNS. Surprisingly, in each mosaic tissue, C9orf72 mRNA levels were significantly increased compared to an ALS-affected daughter with a large expansion. Increased expression correlated with higher levels of the 70-repeat allele (the upregulation was also evident at the protein level). Remarkably, RNA foci and DPR burdens were similar or even significantly increased (in cerebellum) in the unaffected father compared to the daughter with ALS. However, the father did not display TDP-43 pathology and signs of neurodegeneration. CONCLUSION:The presence of RNA foci and DPR pathology was insufficient for disease manifestation and TDP-43 pathology in the mosaic C9orf72 carrier with upregulated C9orf72 expression. It is important to conduct an investigation of similar cases, which could be found among unaffected parents of sporadic C9orf72 patients (e.g., 21% among Finnish patients with ALS). Caution should be taken when consulting carriers of small expansions because disease manifestation could be dependent on the extent of the somatic instability in disease-relevant tissues.
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: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:The most common genetic cause of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) has been linked to a hexanucleotide repeat expansion in the C9ORF72 gene. The frequency of the C9ORF72 expansion in Finland is among the highest in the world.We assessed 73 Finnish patients with FTLD in order to examine the clinical characteristics associated with the expanded C9ORF72. Demographic and clinical features were evaluated. As a potential disease modifier, the apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotype was also assessed. Neuropathological analysis was available on 2 expansion carriers and 1 non-carrier.The C9ORF72 expansion was present in 20 of 70 (29%) probands. Significant associations with the C9ORF72 expansion were observed for concomitant ALS and positive family history of dementia or ALS. Psychoses were detected in both carriers and non-carriers (21 vs. 10%, p = 0.25). The APOE ?4 allele did not cluster among expansion carriers. Numerous p62-positive neuronal inclusions were detected in the cerebellar cortex of the 2 expansion carriers.In line with the suggested C9ORF72 core phenotype, we also detected a high frequency of neuropsychiatric symptoms; however, these symptoms seem not be specific to C9ORF72-associated FTLD. FTLD should be considered in cases of middle-age-onset psychosis.
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: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.
Project description:Hexanucleotide repeat expansions in chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9orf72) have recently been linked to frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and may be the most common genetic cause of both neurodegenerative diseases. Genetic variants at TMEM106B influence risk for the most common neuropathological subtype of FTLD, characterized by inclusions of TAR DNA-binding protein of 43 kDa (FTLD-TDP). Previous reports have shown that TMEM106B is a genetic modifier of FTLD-TDP caused by progranulin (GRN) mutations, with the major (risk) allele of rs1990622 associating with earlier age at onset of disease. Here, we report that rs1990622 genotype affects age at death in a single-site discovery cohort of FTLD patients with C9orf72 expansions (n = 14), with the major allele correlated with later age at death (p = 0.024). We replicate this modifier effect in a 30-site international neuropathological cohort of FTLD-TDP patients with C9orf72 expansions (n = 75), again finding that the major allele associates with later age at death (p = 0.016), as well as later age at onset (p = 0.019). In contrast, TMEM106B genotype does not affect age at onset or death in 241 FTLD-TDP cases negative for GRN mutations or C9orf72 expansions. Thus, TMEM106B is a genetic modifier of FTLD with C9orf72 expansions. Intriguingly, the genotype that confers increased risk for developing FTLD-TDP (major, or T, allele of rs1990622) is associated with later age at onset and death in C9orf72 expansion carriers, providing an example of sign epistasis in human neurodegenerative disease.
Project description:Hexanucleotide repeat expansions in C9orf72 are a major cause of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Understanding the disease mechanisms and a method for clinical diagnostic genotyping have been hindered because of the difficulty in estimating the expansion size. We found 96 repeat-primed PCR expansions: 85/2,974 in six neurodegenerative diseases cohorts (FTLD, ALS, Alzheimer disease, sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Huntington disease-like syndrome, and other nonspecific neurodegenerative disease syndromes) and 11/7,579 (0.15%) in UK 1958 birth cohort (58BC) controls. With the use of a modified Southern blot method, the estimated expansion range (smear maxima) in cases was 800-4,400. Similarly, large expansions were detected in the population controls. Differences in expansion size and morphology were detected between DNA samples from tissue and cell lines. Of those in whom repeat-primed PCR detected expansions, 68/69 were confirmed by blotting, which was specific for greater than 275 repeats. We found that morphology in the expansion smear varied among different individuals and among different brain regions in the same individual. Expansion size correlated with age at clinical onset but did not differ between diagnostic groups. Evidence of instability of repeat size in control families, as well as neighboring SNP and microsatellite analyses, support multiple expansion events on the same haplotype background. Our method of estimating the size of large expansions has potential clinical utility. C9orf72-related disease might mimic several neurodegenerative disorders and, with potentially 90,000 carriers in the United Kingdom, is more common than previously realized.
Project description:Repeat expansions in the promoter region of C9orf72 are the most common genetic cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and related disorders of the ALS/frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) spectrum. Remarkable clinical heterogeneity among patients with a repeat expansion has been observed, and genetic anticipation over different generations has been suggested. Genetic factors modifying the clinical phenotype have been proposed, including genetic variation in other known disease genes, the genomic context of the C9orf72 repeat, and expanded repeat size, which has been estimated between 45 and several thousand units. The role of variability in normal and expanded repeat sizes for disease risk and clinical phenotype is under debate. Different pathogenic mechanisms have been proposed, including loss of function, RNA toxicity, and dipeptide repeat (DPR) protein toxicity resulting from abnormal translation of the expanded repeat, but the major mechanism is yet unclear.
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.