Frontotemporal lobar degeneration

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Frontotemporal lobar degeneration
Classification and external resources
OMIM 600274
DiseasesDB 10034
MeSH D003704

Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is the name for a group of clinically, pathologically and genetically heterogeneous disorders associated with atrophy in the frontal lobe and temporal lobe of the brain, with sparing of the parietal and occipital lobes.

In the over 65 age group, FTLD is probably the fourth most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer's disease, dementia with Lewy bodies and vascular dementia. In the below 65 age group, it is the second most common cause after Alzheimer's disease. In some patients the symptoms of FTLD and Alzheimer's may overlap[1]

FTLD is the pathological term for the clinical syndrome Frontotemporal dementia, which can be subdivided as follows:[2]


There are 3 main histological subtypes found at post-mortem:

  • FTLD -tau; which is characterised by tau positive inclusions often referred to as Pick-bodies. Examples of FTLD-tau include; Pick's disease, corticobasal degeneration, progressive supranuclear palsy.
  • FTLD-TDP43; which is characterised by ubiquitin and TDP-43 positive, tau negative, FUS negative inclusions. The pathological histology of this subtype is so diverse it is subdivided into four subtypes based on the detailed histological findings.

FTLD-TDP43 Type1 presents many long neuritic profiles found in the superficial cortical laminae, very few or no neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions, neuronal intranuclear inclusions or glial cytoplasmic inclusions. FTLD-TDP43 Type2 presents with lots of neuronal and glial cytoplasmic inclusions in both the upper (superficial) and lower (deep) cortical layers, and lower motor neurons. However neuronal intranuclear inclusions are rare or absent. FTLD-TDP43 Type3 presents with many small neurites and neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions in the upper (superficial) cortical layers. Bar-like neuronal intranuclear inclusions can also be seen they are fewer in number. This type is associated with C9ORF72 mutations (see next section). FTLD-TDP-43 Type4 presents with lots of neuronal intranuclear inclusions and dystrophic neurites, and an unusual absence of inclusions in the granual cell layer of the hippocampus. Type 4 is associated with VCP mutations.

  • FTLD-FUS; which is characterised by FUS positive cytoplasmic inclusions, intra nuclear inclusions, and neuritic threads. All of which are present in the cortex, medulla, hippocampus, and motor cells of the spinal cord and XIIth cranial nerve.
  • Dementia lacking distinctive histology (DLDH) is a rare and controversial entity. New analyses has allowed many cases previously described as DLDH to be reclassified into one of the positively-defined subgroups.


There have been numerous advances in descriptions of genetic causes of FTLD, and the related disease Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

  • Mutations in the Tau gene (known as MAPT or Microtubule Associated Protein Tau) can cause a FTLD presenting with tau pathology (FTLD-tau).[3] There are over 40 known mutations at present.
  • Mutations in the Progranulin gene (PGRN) can cause a FTLD presenting with TDP-43 pathology (FTLD-TDP43). Patients with Progranulin mutations have type 3 ubiquitin-positive, TDP-43 positive, tau-negative pathology at post-mortem. Progranulin is associated with tumorgenesis when overproduced, however the mutations seen in FTLD-TDP43 produce a haploinsufficiency, meaning that because one of the two alleles is damaged, only half as much Progranulin is produced.[4]
  • Mutations in the CHMP2B gene are associated with a rare behavioural syndrome akin to bvFTLD (mainly in a large Jutland cohort), presenting with a tau negative, TPD-43 negative, FUS negative, Ubiquitin positive pathology.
  • Mutations in the VCP have been shown to cause a TDP-43 positive FTLD which is associated with the IBMPFD syndrome (inclusion body myopathy, Paget's disease and frontotemporal dementia)[5]
  • Mutations in the TDP-43 gene (known as TARBP or TAR DNA-binding protein) are an exceptionally rare cause of FTLD, despite this protein being present in the pathological inclusions of many cases (FTLD-TDP43).[6] However, mutations in TARBP are a more common cause of ALS, which can present with frontotemporal dementia. Since these instances are not considered a pure FTLD they are not included here.

Mutations in all of the above genes cause a very small fraction of the FTLD spectrum. Most of the cases are sporadic (no known genetic cause).

  • A proportion of FTLD-TDP43 [with ALS] cases had shown genetic linkage to a region on chromosome 9 (FTLD-TDP43/Ch9). This linkage has recently been pinned down to the C9ORF72 gene. Two groups published identical findings back-to-back in the journal Neuron in mid-2011, showing that a hexanucleotide repeat expansion of the GGGGCC genetic sequence within an intron of this gene was responsible. This expansion was found to be present in a large proportion of familial and sporadic cases, particularly in the Finnish population[7]


For diagnostic purposes, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ([18F]fluorodeoxyglucose) positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) are applied. They measure either atrophy or reductions in glucose utilization. The three clinical subtypes of frontotemporal lobar degeneration, frontotemporal dementia, semantic dementia and progressive nonfluent aphasia, are characterized by impairments in specific neural networks.[8] The first subtype with behavioral deficits, frontotemporal dementia, mainly affects a frontomedian network discussed in the context of social cognition. Semantic dementia is mainly related to the inferior temporal poles and amygdalae; brain regions that have been discussed in the context of conceptual knowledge, semantic information processing, and social cognition, whereas progressive nonfluent aphasia affects the whole left frontotemporal network for phonological and syntactical processing.


United States Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) is a known sufferer of FTLD, and the illness is the main reason behind his October 4, 2007 announcement of retirement at the end of his term.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rajka M. Liscic, MD, PhD; Martha Storandt, PhD; Nigel J. Cairns, PhD; John C. Morris, MD Clinical and Psychometric Distinction of Frontotemporal and Alzheimer Dementias
  2. ^ Rabinovici, G.; Miller, B. (2010). "Frontotemporal lobar degeneration: epidemiology, pathophysiology, diagnosis and management". CNS Drugs 24 (5): 375–398. doi:10.2165/11533100-000000000-00000. PMC 2916644. PMID 20369906.  edit
  3. ^ Goedert, M., et al (1989). "Cloning and sequencing of the cDNA encoding an isoform of microtubule-associated protein tau containing four tandem repeats: differential expression of tau protein mRNAs in human brain.". EMBO 8 (2): 393–9. 
  4. ^ Cruts, M., et al., (2006). "Null mutations in progranulin cause ubiquitin-positive frontotemporal dementia linked to chromosome 17q21.". Nature 442 (7105): 920–4. doi:10.1038/nature05017. PMID 16862115. 
  5. ^ Kimonis, V.E., et al., (2008). "VCP disease associated with myopathy, Paget disease of bone and frontotemporal dementia: review of a unique disorder.". Biochim Biophys Acta, 1782 (12): 744–8. doi:10.1016/j.bbadis.2008.09.003. 
  6. ^ Borroni, B., et al., (2010). "TARDBP mutations in frontotemporal lobar degeneration: frequency, clinical features, and disease course". Rejuvenation Res 13 (5): 509–17. doi:10.1089/rej.2010.1017. 
  7. ^ Dejesus-Hernandez, M., et al., (2011). "Expanded GGGGCC Hexanucleotide Repeat in Noncoding Region of C9ORF72 Causes Chromosome 9p-Linked FTD and ALS.". Neuron 72 (2): 245–56. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2011.09.011. 
  8. ^ Schroeter ML, Raczka KK, Neumann J, von Cramon DY (2007). "Towards a nosology for frontotemporal lobar degenerations – A meta-analysis involving 267 subjects.". NeuroImage 36 (3): 497–510. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2007.03.024. PMID 17478101. 


Further reading[edit]

  • Hodges, John R. The Frontotemporal Dementia Syndromes. Cambridge University Press. 2007 ISBN 978-0-521-85477-1

External links[edit]