Mutations in the Progranulin gene (PGRN) recently have been discovered to be associated with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) linked to 17q21 without identified MAPT mutations. The range of mutations of PGRN that can result in the FTD phenotype and the clinical presentation of patients with PGRN mutations have yet to be determined. We examined 84 FTD patients from families not known previously to have illness linked to chromosome 17 for identified PGRN and MAPT mutations and sequenced the coding exons and the flanking intronic regions of PGRN. We compared the prevalence, clinical characteristics, magnetic resonance imaging and 18-fluoro-deoxyglucose positron emission tomography results, and neuropsychological testing of patients with the PGRN R493X mutation with those patients without identified PGRN mutations. We discovered a new PGRN mutation (R493X) resulting in a stop codon in two patients. This was the only PGRN mutation identified in our sample. The patients with the PGRN R493X mutation had a rapid illness course and had predominant right-sided atrophy and hypometabolism on magnetic resonance imaging and 18-fluoro-deoxyglucose positron emission tomography. The affected father of one of the patients with the PGRN R493X mutation showed frontal and temporal atrophy without neurofibrillary tangles on neuropathological examination. Our judgment that this mutation results in a heterogeneous clinical presentation has been confirmed in an international in press study of a much large sampling of patients. Many patients with FTD come to our evaluations still driving. To evaluate driving competency and the relationship between neuropsychiatric symptoms and driving behavior in frontotemporal dementia (FTD) patients, we studied 15 patients with a diagnosis of FTD and 15 healthy controls using a driving simulation task. The FTD patients received more speeding tickets, ran more stop signs and were involved in more off-road crashes and collisions than the controls. The patients'overall average speed was significantly higher. Driving performance was correlated with agitated behavior. Based on this finding that behavioral changes characteristic of FTD patients have an impact on their driving skills leading to inappropriate driving behavior, we now caution that all patients with a diagnosis of FTD should cease driving. Frontotemporal dementia and parkinsonism linked to chromosome 17 (FTDP-17) is associated with mutations in the Microtubule-Associated Protein Tau(MAPT) gene or the Progranulin(PGRN) gene. MAPT mutations lead to widespread deposition of hyperphosphorylated tau protein (FTDP-17T). PGRN mutations are associated with ubiquitin- and TDP-43-positive inclusions in the frontotemporal cortex, striatum and hippocampus (FTDP-17U). Despite the differences, FTDP-17T and FTDP-17U share a largely overlapping clinical phenotype. We attempted to determine whether neuroimaging studies may allow an in vivo early differentiation between FTDP-17T and FTDP-17U. We studied 25 individuals affected with FTDP-17T associated with either the exon 10+3 (24 subjects) or the G335S (1 subject) MAPT mutation, as well as 3 FTDP-17U individuals, who were carriers of the A9D, IVS6-2A>G or R493X PGRN mutation. Neuroimaging studies, obtained along the course of the disease, were compared to the neuropathologic findings. FTDP-17T cases were associated with symmetric frontotemporal atrophy. Behavioral changes constituted the predominant clinical presentation. Conversely, an asymmetric degenerative process was seen in all 3 PGRN cases, who presented with either corticobasal syndrome (A9D) or frontotemporal dementia and language deterioration (IVS6-2A>G and R493X). We conclude that neuroimaging data, in the early disease stage of FTDP-17, may offer the possibility of an early differentiation of FTDP-17T and FTDP-17U phenotypes, independent of the genetic analysis.

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