Divergent impacts of C9orf72 repeat expansion on neurons and glia in ALS and FTD

Kavli Affiliate: Eran Mukamel

| Authors: Junhao Li, Manoj K Jaiswal, Jo-Fan Chien, Alexey Kozlenkov, Ping Zhou, Mahammad Gardashli, Luc J Pregent, Erica Engelberg-Cook, Dennis W Dickson, Veronique V Belzil, Eran A Mukamel and Stella Dracheva

| Summary:

Abstract Neurodegenerative diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), are strongly influenced by inherited genetic variation, but environmental and epigenetic factors also play key roles in the course of these diseases. A hexanucleotide repeat expansion in the C9orf72 (C9) gene is the most common genetic cause of ALS and FTD. To determine the cellular alterations associated with the C9 repeat expansion, we performed single nucleus transcriptomics (snRNA-seq) and epigenomics (snATAC-seq) in postmortem samples of motor and frontal cortices from C9-ALS and C9-FTD donors. We found pervasive alterations of gene expression across multiple cortical cell types in C9-ALS, with the largest number of affected genes in astrocytes and excitatory neurons. Astrocytes increased expression of markers of activation and pathways associated with structural remodeling. Excitatory neurons in upper and deep layers increased expression of genes related to proteostasis, metabolism, and protein expression, and decreased expression of genes related to neuronal function. Epigenetic analyses revealed concordant changes in chromatin accessibility, histone modifications, and gene expression in specific cell types. C9-FTD patients had a distinct pattern of changes, including loss of neurons in frontal cortex and altered expression of thousands of genes in astrocytes and oligodendrocyte-lineage cells. Overall, these findings demonstrate a context-dependent molecular disruption in C9-ALS and C9-FTD, resulting in distinct effects across cell types, brain regions, and disease phenotypes. Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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