Michael D. Gallagher, Eunran Suh, Murray Grossman, Lauren Elman, Leo McCluskey, John C. Van Swieten, Safa Al-Sarraj, Manuela Neumann, Ellen Gelpi, Bernardino Ghetti, Jonathan D. Rohrer, Glenda Halliday, Christine Van Broeckhoven, Danielle Seilhean, Pamela J. Shaw, Matthew P. Frosch, International Collaboration for Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration, John Q. Trojanowski, Virginia M.Y. Lee, Vivianna Van Deerlin, Alice S. Chen-Plotkin
Acta Neuropathologica 127:407-18, 2014; PMCID: PMC4003885
Hexanucleotide repeat expansions in chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9orf72) have recently been linked to frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), 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 43kDa (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.