Frequency and Longitudinal Course of Motor Signs in Genetic Frontotemporal Dementia

Sonja Schoenecker, Francisco J. Martinez-Murcia, on behalf of the Genetic Frontotemporal dementia Initiative (GENFI), Boris-Stephan Rauchmann, Nicolai Franzmeier, Catharina Prix, Elisabeth Wlasich, Sandra V. Loosli, Katja Bochmann, Juan-Manuel Gorriz Saez, Robert Laforce, Simon Ducharme, Maria Carmela Tartaglia, Elizabeth Finger, Alexandre de Mendonca, Isabel Santana, Raquel Sanchez-Valle, Fermin Moreno, Sandro Sorbi, Fabrizio TagliaviniBarbara Borroni, Markus Otto, Matthis Synofzik, Daniela Galimberti, Rik Vandenberghe, John van Swieten, Christopher Butler, Alexander Gerhard, Caroline Graff, Adrian Danek, Jonathan D. Rohrer, Mario Masellis, James Rowe, Johannes Levin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background and Objectives Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a highly heritable disorder. The majority of genetic cases are caused by autosomal dominant pathogenic variants in the chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (c9orf72), progranulin (GRN), and microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT) gene. As motor disorders are increasingly recognized as part of the clinical spectrum, the current study aimed to describe motor phenotypes caused by genetic FTD, quantify their temporal association, and investigate their regional association with brain atrophy. Methods We analyzed baseline visit data of known carriers of a pathogenic variant in the c9orf72, GRN, or MAPT gene from the Genetic Frontotemporal Dementia Initiative cohort study. Principal component analysis with varimax rotation was performed to identify motor sign clusters that were compared with respect to frequency and severity between groups. Associations with cross-sectional atrophy patterns were determined using voxel-wise regression. We applied linear mixed effects models to assess whether groups differed in the association between motor signs and estimated time to symptom onset. Results A total of 322 pathogenic variant carriers were included in the analysis: 122 c9orf72 (79 presymptomatic), 143 GRN (112 presymptomatic), and 57 MAPT (43 presymptomatic) pathogenic variant carriers. Principal component analysis revealed 5 motor clusters, which we call progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP)-like, bulbar amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)-like, mixed/ALS-like, Parkinson disease (PD) like, and corticobasal syndrome-like motor phenotypes. There was no significant group difference in the frequency of signs of different motor phenotypes. However, mixed/ALS-like motor signs were most frequent, followed by PD-like motor signs. Although the PSP-like phenotype was associated with mesencephalic atrophy, the mixed/ALS-like phenotype was associated with motor cortex and corticospinal tract atrophy. The PD-like phenotype was associated with widespread cortical and subcortical atrophy. Estimated time to onset, genetic group and their interaction influenced motor signs. In c9orf72 pathogenic variant carriers, motor signs could be detected up to 25 years before expected symptom onset. Discussion These results indicate the presence of multiple natural clusters of motor signs in genetic FTD, each correlated with specific atrophy patterns. Their motor severity depends on time and the affected gene. These clinicogenetic associations can guide diagnostic evaluations and the design of clinical trials for new disease-modifying and preventive treatments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E1032-E1044
Number of pages13
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

Study Funding
This work is cofunded by the UK Medical Research Council (MR/M023664/1), Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) under Germany's Excellence Strategy within the framework of the Munich Cluster for Systems Neurology (EXC 2145 SyNergy–ID 390857198), the Italian Ministry of Health, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research as part of a Centres of Excellence in Neurodegeneration grant, a Canadian Institutes of Health Research operating grant and the Bluefield Project, as well as a JPND grant GENFIprox. Nonfinancial support was also provided through the European Reference Network for Rare Neurological Diseases (ERN-RND), 1 of 24 ERNs funded by the European Commission (ERN-RND: 3HP 767231). J.-M. Gorriz Saez is supported by the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (España)/FEDER under the RTI2018-098913-B100 project and the Consejería de Economía, Innovación, Ciencia y Empleo (Junta de Andalucía) and FEDER under the CV20-45250 and A-TIC-080-UGR18 projects. M. Masellis was also funded by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research operating grant (MOP 327387) and funding from the Weston Brain Institute. J. Rowe is supported by the Medical Research Council (SUAG/051 G101400) and NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre (BRC-1215-20014). The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.

Copyright © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. on behalf of the American Academy of Neurology.


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