Tau pathology in frontotemporal lobar degeneration with C9ORF72 hexanucleotide repeat expansion
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An expanded GGGGCC hexanucleotide repeat in C9ORF72 is the most common genetic cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal lobar degeneration associated with TDP-43 pathology (FTLD-TDP). In addition to TDP-43-positive neuronal and glial inclusions, C9ORF72-linked FTLD-TDP has characteristic TDP-43-negative neuronal cytoplasmic and intranuclear inclusions as well as dystrophic neurites in the hippocampus and cerebellum. These lesions are immunopositive for ubiquitin and ubiquitin-binding proteins, such as sequestosome-1/p62 and ubiquilin-2. Studies examining the frequency of the C9ORF72 mutation in clinically probable Alzheimer’s disease (AD) have found a small proportion of AD cases with the mutation. This prompted us to systematically explore the frequency of Alzheimer-type pathology in a series of 17 FTLD-TDP cases with mutations in C9ORF72 (FTLD-C9ORF72). We identified four cases with sufficient Alzheimer-type pathology to meet criteria for intermediate-to-high-likelihood AD. We compared AD pathology in the 17 FTLD-C9ORF72 to 13 cases of FTLD-TDP linked to mutations in the gene for progranulin (FTLD-GRN) and 36 cases of sporadic FTLD (sFTLD). FTLD-C9ORF72 cases had higher Braak neurofibrillary tangle stage than FTLD-GRN. Increased tau pathology in FTLD-C9ORF72 was assessed with thioflavin-S fluorescent microscopy-based neurofibrillary tangle counts and with image analysis of tau burden in temporal cortex and hippocampus. FTLD-C9ORF72 had significantly more neurofibrillary tangles and higher tau burden compared with FTLD-GRN. The differences were most marked in limbic regions. On the other hand, sFTLD and FTLD-C9ORF72 had a similar burden of tau pathology. These results suggest FTLD-C9ORF72 has increased propensity for tau pathology compared to FTLD-GRN, but not sFTLD. The accumulation of tau as well as lesions immunoreactive for ubiquitin and ubiquitin-binding proteins (p62 and ubiquilin-2) suggests that mutations in C9ORF72 may involve disrupted protein degradation that favors accumulation of multiple different proteins.
KeywordsFrontotemporal lobar degeneration C9ORF72 Ubiquitin P62 Ubiquilin-2 Tau
We are grateful to all patients, family members, and caregivers who agreed to brain donation, without which these studies would have been impossible. We also acknowledge expert technical assistance of Linda Rousseau and Virginia Phillips for histology and John Gonzalez, Beth Marten, Pamela Desaro and Amelia Johnston for brain banking. This research was funded by Mayo Foundation (Jacoby Professorship of Alzheimer Research, Research Committee CR Program; ALS Center donor funds); National Institutes of Health (P50-AG16574, P50-NS72187, P01-AG03949, R01-AG37491, R01-NS65782 and R01-AG26251), CurePSP, The Society for Progressive Supranuclear Palsy; and the State of Florida Alzheimer Disease Initiative.
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