Loss of TMEM106B leads to myelination deficits: implications for frontotemporal dementia treatment strategies

Brain. 2020 Jun 1;143(6):1905-1919. doi: 10.1093/brain/awaa141.


Genetic variants that define two distinct haplotypes at the TMEM106B locus have been implicated in multiple neurodegenerative diseases and in healthy brain ageing. In frontotemporal dementia (FTD), the high expressing TMEM106B risk haplotype was shown to increase susceptibility for FTD with TDP-43 inclusions (FTD-TDP) and to modify disease penetrance in progranulin mutation carriers (FTD-GRN). To elucidate the biological function of TMEM106B and determine whether lowering TMEM106B may be a viable therapeutic strategy, we performed brain transcriptomic analyses in 8-month-old animals from our recently developed Tmem106b-/- mouse model. We included 10 Tmem106b+/+ (wild-type), 10 Tmem106b+/- and 10 Tmem106-/- mice. The most differentially expressed genes (153 downregulated and 60 upregulated) were identified between Tmem106b-/- and wild-type animals, with an enrichment for genes implicated in myelination-related cellular processes including axon ensheathment and oligodendrocyte differentiation. Co-expression analysis also revealed that the most downregulated group of correlated genes was enriched for myelination-related processes. We further detected a significant loss of OLIG2-positive cells in the corpus callosum of Tmem106b-/- mice, which was present already in young animals (21 days) and persisted until old age (23 months), without worsening. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction revealed a reduction of differentiated but not undifferentiated oligodendrocytes cellular markers. While no obvious changes in myelin were observed at the ultrastructure levels in unchallenged animals, treatment with cuprizone revealed that Tmem106b-/- mice are more susceptible to cuprizone-induced demyelination and have a reduced capacity to remyelinate, a finding which we were able to replicate in a newly generated Tmem106b CRISPR/cas9 knock-out mouse model. Finally, using a TMEM106B HeLa knock-out cell line and primary cultured oligodendrocytes, we determined that loss of TMEM106B leads to abnormalities in the distribution of lysosomes and PLP1. Together these findings reveal an important function for TMEM106B in myelination with possible consequences for therapeutic strategies aimed at lowering TMEM106B levels.

Keywords: TMEM106B; cuprizone; lysosome trafficking; myelin; oligodendrocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Female
  • Frontotemporal Dementia / genetics*
  • Frontotemporal Dementia / therapy*
  • Gene Expression / genetics
  • Haplotypes
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / pathology
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • Transcriptome / genetics


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • TMEM106B protein, human
  • Tmem106b protein, mouse