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.
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.
Mutations of three different genes, encoding ?-amyloid precursor protein (APP), presenilin 1 and presenilin 2 are associated with familial Alzheimers disease (AD). Recently, the APP mutation A673V has been identified that stands out from all the genetic defects previously reported in these three genes, since it causes the disease only in the homozygous state (Di Fede et al. in Science 323:1473-1477, 2009). We here provide the detailed neuropathological picture of the proband of this family, who was homozygous for the APP A673V mutation and recently came to death. The brain has been studied by histological and immunohistochemical techniques, at the optical and ultrastructural levels. Cerebral A? accumulation and tau pathology were severe and extensive. Peculiar features were the configuration of the A? deposits that were of large size, mostly perivascular and exhibited a close correspondence between the pattern elicited by amyloid stainings and the labeling obtained with immunoreagents specific for A?40 or A?42. Moreover, A? deposition spared the neostriatum while deeply affecting the cerebellum, and therefore was not in compliance with the hierarchical topographical sequence of involvement documented in sporadic AD. Therefore, the neuropathological picture of familial AD caused by the APP recessive mutation A673V presents distinctive characteristics compared to sporadic AD or familial AD inherited as a dominant trait. Main peculiar features are the morphology, structural properties and composition of the A? deposits as well as their topographic distribution in the brain.
Fibrils play an important role in the pathogenesis of amyloidosis; however, the underlying mechanisms of the growth process and the structural details of fibrils are poorly understood. Crucial in the fibril formation of prion proteins is the stacking of PrP monomers. We previously proposed that the structure of the prion protein fibril may be similar as a parallel left-handed beta-helix. The beta-helix is composed of spiraling rungs of parallel beta-strands, and in the PrP model residues 105-143 of each PrP monomer can contribute two beta-helical rungs to the growing fibril. Here we report data to support this model. We show that two cyclized human PrP peptides corresponding to residues 105-124 and 125-143, based on two single rungs of the left-handed beta-helical core of the human PrP(Sc) fibril, show spontaneous cooperative fibril growth in vitro by heterologous stacking. Because the structural model must have predictive value, peptides were designed based on the structure rules of the left-handed beta-helical fold that could stack with prion protein peptides to stimulate or to block fibril growth. The stimulator peptide was designed as an optimal left-handed beta-helical fold that can serve as a template for fibril growth initiation. The inhibiting peptide was designed to bind to the exposed rung but frustrate the propagation of the fibril growth. The single inhibitory peptide hardly shows inhibition, but the combination of the inhibitory with the stimulatory peptide showed complete inhibition of the fibril growth of peptide huPrP-(106-126). Moreover, the unique strategy based on stimulatory and inhibitory peptides seems a powerful new approach to study amyloidogenic fibril structures in general and could prove useful for the development of therapeutics.
beta-Amyloid precursor protein (APP) mutations cause familial Alzheimers disease with nearly complete penetrance. We found an APP mutation [alanine-673-->valine-673 (A673V)] that causes disease only in the homozygous state, whereas heterozygous carriers were unaffected, consistent with a recessive Mendelian trait of inheritance. The A673V mutation affected APP processing, resulting in enhanced beta-amyloid (Abeta) production and formation of amyloid fibrils in vitro. Co-incubation of mutated and wild-type peptides conferred instability on Abeta aggregates and inhibited amyloidogenesis and neurotoxicity. The highly amyloidogenic effect of the A673V mutation in the homozygous state and its anti-amyloidogenic effect in the heterozygous state account for the autosomal recessive pattern of inheritance and have implications for genetic screening and the potential treatment of Alzheimers disease.
Magnetic resonance imaging-positive temporal lobe atrophy with temporo-polar grey/white matter abnormalities (usually called blurring) has been frequently reported in patients with temporal lobe epilepsy associated with hippocampal sclerosis. The poor distinction of grey and white matter has been attributed to various causes, including developmental cortical abnormalities, gliosis, myelin alterations, a non-specific increase in temporal lobe water content and metabolic/perfusion alterations. However, there is still no consensus regarding the genesis of these abnormalities and no histopathological proof for a structural nature of magnetic resonance imaging changes. The aim of this study was to investigate the pathological substrate of temporo-polar blurring using different methodological approaches and evaluate the possible clinical significance of the abnormalities. The study involved 32 consecutive patients with medically intractable temporal lobe epilepsy and hippocampal sclerosis who underwent surgery after a comprehensive electroclinical and imaging evaluation. They were divided into two groups on the basis of the presence/absence of temporo-polar blurring. Surgical specimens were examined neuropathologically, and selected samples from both groups underwent high-field 7?T magnetic resonance imaging and ultrastructural studies. At the clinical level, the two groups were significantly different in terms of age at epilepsy onset (earlier in the patients with blurring) and epilepsy duration (longer in the patients with blurring). Blurring was also associated with lower neuropsychological test scores, with a significant relationship to abstract reasoning. On 7?T magnetic resonance image examination, the borders between the grey and white matter were clear in all of the samples, but only those with blurring showed a dishomogeneous signal in the white matter, with patchy areas of hyperintensity mainly in the depth of the white matter. Sections from the patients with blurring that were processed for myelin staining revealed dishomogeneous staining of the white matter, which was confirmed by analyses of the corresponding semi-thin sections. Ultrastructural examinations revealed the presence of axonal degeneration and a significant reduction in the number of axons in the patients with blurring; there were no vascular alterations in either group. These data obtained using different methodological approaches provide robust evidence that temporo-polar blurring is caused by the degeneration of fibre bundles and suggest slowly evolving chronic degeneration with the redistribution of the remaining fibres. The article also discusses the correlations between the morphological findings and clinical data.
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