Using exome sequencing to reveal mutations in TREM2 presenting as a frontotemporal dementia-like syndrome without bone involvement

JAMA Neurol. 2013 Jan;70(1):78-84. doi: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2013.579.


Objective: To identify new genes and risk factors associated with frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Several genes and loci have been associated with different forms of FTD, but a large number of families with dementia do not harbor mutations in these genes.

Design: Whole-exome sequencing and whole-genome genotyping were performed in all patients. Genetic variants obtained from whole-exome sequencing were integrated with the data obtained from whole-genome genotyping.

Setting: Database of the Behavioral Neurology Outpatient Clinic of the Department of Neurology, Istanbul Faculty of Medicine, Istanbul, Turkey. PATIENTS Forty-four Turkish patients with an FTD-like clinical diagnosis were included in the study. Relatives were screened when appropriate.

Main outcome measure: Mutations in the triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells 2 gene (TREM2).

Results: In 3 probands with FTD-like disease, we identified different homozygous mutations in TREM2 that had previously been associated with polycystic lipomembranous osteodysplasia with sclerosing leukoencephalopathy (PLOSL). None of these 3 patients had a typical clinical presentation of PLOSL: they presented with behavioral change and subsequent cognitive impairment and motor features but without any bone cysts or bone-associated phenotypes. Imaging showed white matter abnormalities as well as frontal atrophy in all 3 patients.

Conclusions: Our results show that TREM2 is responsible for an unexpectedly high number of dementia cases in our cohort, suggesting that this gene should be taken into account when mutations in other dementia genes are excluded. Even for complex syndromes such as dementia, exome sequencing has proven to be a rapid and cost-effective tool to identify genetic mutations, allowing for the association of clinical phenotypes with unexpected molecular underpinnings.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Exome / genetics*
  • Frontotemporal Dementia / genetics*
  • Frontotemporal Dementia / pathology
  • Frontotemporal Dementia / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / genetics*
  • Mutation / genetics*
  • Receptors, Immunologic / genetics*
  • Risk Factors
  • Syndrome


  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Receptors, Immunologic
  • TREM2 protein, human