Neuroinflammation has been implicated in frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) pathophysiology, including in genetic forms with microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT) mutations (FTLD-MAPT) or chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9orf72) repeat expansions (FTLD-C9orf72). Iron accumulation as a marker of neuroinflammation has, however, been understudied in genetic FTLD to date. To investigate the occurrence of cortical iron accumulation in FTLD-MAPT and FTLD-C9orf72, iron histopathology was performed on the frontal and temporal cortex of 22 cases (11 FTLD-MAPT and 11 FTLD-C9orf72). We studied patterns of cortical iron accumulation and its colocalization with the corresponding underlying pathologies (tau and TDP-43), brain cells (microglia and astrocytes), and myelination. Further, with ultrahigh field ex vivo MRI on a subset (four FTLD-MAPT and two FTLD-C9orf72), we examined the sensitivity of T2*-weighted MRI for iron in FTLD. Histopathology showed that cortical iron accumulation occurs in both FTLD-MAPT and FTLD-C9orf72 in frontal and temporal cortices, characterized by a diffuse mid-cortical iron-rich band, and by a superficial cortical iron band in some cases. Cortical iron accumulation was associated with the severity of proteinopathy (tau or TDP-43) and neuronal degeneration, in part with clinical severity, and with the presence of activated microglia, reactive astrocytes and myelin loss. Ultra-high field T2*-weighted MRI showed a good correspondence between hypointense changes on MRI and cortical iron observed on histology. We conclude that iron accumulation is a feature of both FTLD-MAPT and FTLD-C9orf72 and is associated with pathological severity. Therefore, in vivo iron imaging using T2*-weighted MRI or quantitative susceptibility mapping may potentially be used as a noninvasive imaging marker to localize pathology in FTLD.

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TitleCortical iron accumulation in MAPT‐ and C9orf 72‐associated frontotemporal lobar degeneration
DateMarch 27th, 2023
Issue nameBrain Pathology
Issue numberdoi:10.1111/bpa.13158
AuthorsGiannini LAA, Bulk M, Kenkhuis B, Rajicic A, Melhem S, Hegeman‐Kleinn I, Bossoni L, Suidgeest E, Dopper EGP, van Swieten JC, van der Weerd L & Seelaar H
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