Necrosome-positive granulovacuolar degeneration is associated with TDP-43 pathological lesions in the hippocampus of ALS/FTLD cases

Neuropathol Appl Neurobiol. 2021 Feb;47(2):328-345. doi: 10.1111/nan.12668. Epub 2020 Oct 20.


Aim: Granulovacuolar degeneration (GVD) in Alzheimer's disease (AD) involves the necrosome, which is a protein complex consisting of phosphorylated receptor-interacting protein kinase 1 (pRIPK1), pRIPK3 and phosphorylated mixed lineage kinase domain-like protein (pMLKL). Necrosome-positive GVD was associated with neuron loss in AD. GVD was recently linked to the C9ORF72 mutation in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration with transactive response DNA-binding protein (TDP-43) pathology (FTLD-TDP). Therefore, we investigated whether GVD in cases of the ALS-FTLD-TDP spectrum (ALS/FTLD) shows a similar involvement of the necrosome as in AD, and whether it correlates with diagnosis, presence of protein aggregates and cell death in ALS/FTLD.

Methods: We analysed the presence and distribution of the necrosome in post-mortem brain and spinal cord of ALS and FTLD-TDP patients (n = 30) with and without the C9ORF72 mutation, and controls (n = 22). We investigated the association of the necrosome with diagnosis, the presence of pathological protein aggregates and neuronal loss.

Results: Necrosome-positive GVD was primarily observed in hippocampal regions of ALS/FTLD cases and was associated with hippocampal TDP-43 inclusions as the main predictor of the pMLKL-GVD stage, as well as with the Braak stage of neurofibrillary tangle pathology. The central cortex and spinal cord, showing motor neuron loss in ALS, were devoid of any accumulation of pRIPK1, pRIPK3 or pMLKL.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest a role for hippocampal TDP-43 pathology as a contributor to necrosome-positive GVD in ALS/FTLD. The absence of necroptosis-related proteins in motor neurons in ALS argues against a role for necroptosis in ALS-related motor neuron death.

Keywords: C9ORF72 repeat expansion; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; granulovacuolar degeneration; necroptosis; transactive response DNA-binding protein 43 kD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Frontotemporal Dementia / pathology*
  • Hippocampus / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Necroptosis / physiology*
  • Nerve Degeneration / pathology*
  • Spinal Cord / pathology