Primary Progressive Aphasia Associated With GRN Mutations: New Insights Into the Nonamyloid Logopenic Variant

Neurology. 2021 Jul 6;97(1):e88-e102. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000012174. Epub 2021 May 12.


Objective: To determine relative frequencies and linguistic profiles of primary progressive aphasia (PPA) variants associated with GRN (progranulin) mutations and to study their neuroanatomic correlates.

Methods: Patients with PPA carrying GRN mutations (PPA-GRN) were selected among a national prospective research cohort of 1,696 patients with frontotemporal dementia, including 235 patients with PPA. All patients with amyloid-positive CSF biomarkers were excluded. In this cross-sectional study, speech/language and cognitive profiles were characterized with standardized evaluations, and gray matter (GM) atrophy patterns using voxel-based morphometry. Comparisons were performed with controls and patients with sporadic PPA.

Results: Among the 235 patients with PPA, 45 (19%) carried GRN mutations, and we studied 32 of these. We showed that logopenic PPA (lvPPA) was the most frequent linguistic variant (n = 13, 41%), followed by nonfluent/agrammatic (nfvPPA; n = 9, 28%) and mixed forms (n = 8, 25%). Semantic variant was rather rare (n = 2, 6%). Patients with lvPPA, qualified as nonamyloid lvPPA, presented canonical logopenic deficit. Seven of 13 had a pure form; 6 showed subtle additional linguistic deficits not fitting criteria for mixed PPA and hence were labeled as logopenic-spectrum variant. GM atrophy involved primarily left posterior temporal gyrus, mirroring neuroanatomic changes of amyloid-positive-lvPPA. Patients with nfvPPA presented agrammatism (89%) rather than apraxia of speech (11%).

Conclusions: This study shows that the most frequent PPA variant associated with GRN mutations is nonamyloid lvPPA, preceding nfvPPA and mixed forms, and illustrates that the language network may be affected at different levels. GRN testing is indicated for patients with PPA, whether familial or sporadic. This finding is important for upcoming GRN gene-specific therapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aphasia, Primary Progressive / diagnostic imaging
  • Aphasia, Primary Progressive / genetics*
  • Atrophy
  • Biomarkers / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Frontotemporal Dementia / diagnostic imaging
  • Frontotemporal Dementia / genetics
  • Gene Frequency
  • Humans
  • Language Tests
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Progranulins / genetics*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Speech
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon


  • Biomarkers
  • GRN protein, human
  • Progranulins