Neurovascular dysfunction in GRN-associated frontotemporal dementia identified by single-nucleus RNA sequencing of human cerebral cortex

The Brainbank Neuro-CEB Neuropathology Network

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Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is the second most prevalent form of early-onset dementia, affecting predominantly frontal and temporal cerebral lobes. Heterozygous mutations in the progranulin gene (GRN) cause autosomal-dominant FTD (FTD-GRN), associated with TDP-43 inclusions, neuronal loss, axonal degeneration and gliosis, but FTD-GRN pathogenesis is largely unresolved. Here we report single-nucleus RNA sequencing of microglia, astrocytes and the neurovasculature from frontal, temporal and occipital cortical tissue from control and FTD-GRN brains. We show that fibroblast and mesenchymal cell numbers were enriched in FTD-GRN, and we identified disease-associated subtypes of astrocytes and endothelial cells. Expression of gene modules associated with blood–brain barrier (BBB) dysfunction was significantly enriched in FTD-GRN endothelial cells. The vasculature supportive function and capillary coverage by pericytes was reduced in FTD-GRN tissue, with increased and hypertrophic vascularization and an enrichment of perivascular T cells. Our results indicate a perturbed BBB and suggest that the neurovascular unit is severely affected in FTD-GRN.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1034-1048
Number of pages15
JournalNature neuroscience
Issue number8
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022

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