Postmortem Cortex Samples Identify Distinct Molecular Subtypes of ALS: Retrotransposon Activation, Oxidative Stress, and Activated Glia

The NYGC ALS Consortium

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146 Citations (Scopus)


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease characterized by the progressive loss of motor neurons. While several pathogenic mutations have been identified, the vast majority of ALS cases have no family history of disease. Thus, for most ALS cases, the disease may be a product of multiple pathways contributing to varying degrees in each patient. Using machine learning algorithms, we stratify the transcriptomes of 148 ALS postmortem cortex samples into three distinct molecular subtypes. The largest cluster, identified in 61% of patient samples, displays hallmarks of oxidative and proteotoxic stress. Another 19% of the samples shows predominant signatures of glial activation. Finally, a third group (20%) exhibits high levels of retrotransposon expression and signatures of TARDBP/TDP-43 dysfunction. We further demonstrate that TDP-43 (1) directly binds a subset of retrotransposon transcripts and contributes to their silencing in vitro, and (2) pathological TDP-43 aggregation correlates with retrotransposon de-silencing in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1164-1177.e5
JournalCell reports
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 29 Oct 2019


  • TDP-43
  • amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • genetics and genomics of ALS
  • neurodegeneration
  • neurodegenerative disease
  • retrotransposons
  • transposable elements

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