Heterozygous mutations in the gene coding for progranulin (GRN) cause frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) while homozygous mutations are linked to neuronal ceroidolipofuscinosis (NCL). While both FTLD/NCL pathological hallmarks were mostly investigated in heterozygous GRN+/- brain tissue or iPSC-derived neurons, data from homozygous GRN-/- condition are scarce, being limited to a postmortem brain tissue from a single case. Indeed, homozygous GRN-/- is an extremely rare condition reported in very few cases. Our aim was to investigate pathological phenotypes associated to both FTLD and NCL in iPSC-derived cortical neurons from a GRN-/- patient affected by NCL. iPSCs were generated from peripheral blood of a GRN wt healthy donor and a GRN-/- patient and subsequently differentiated into cortical neurons. Several pathological changes were investigated, by means of immunocytochemical, biochemical and ultrastructural analyses. GRN-/- patient-derived cortical neurons displayed both TDP-43 and phospho-TDP-43 mislocalization, enlarged autofluorescent lysosomes and electron-dense vesicles containing storage material with granular, curvilinear and fingerprints profiles. In addition, different patterns in the expression of TDP-43, caspase 3 and cleaved caspase 3 were observed by biochemical analysis at different time points of cortical differentiation. At variance with previous findings, the present data highlight the existence of both FTLD- and NCL-linked pathological features in GRN-/- iPSC-derived cortical neurons from a NCL patient. They also suggest an evolution in the appearance of these features: firstly, FTLD-related TDP-43 alterations and initial NCL storage materials were detected; afterwards, mainly well-shaped NCL storage materials were present, while some FTLD features were not observed anymore.
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