Degeneration of the primary motor cortex is a defining feature of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is associated with the accumulation of microscopic protein aggregates in neurons and glia. However, little is known about the quantitative burden and pattern of motor cortex proteinopathies across ALS genotypes. We combined quantitative digital image analysis with multi-level generalized linear modelling in an independent cohort of 82 ALS cases to explore the relationship between genotype, total proteinopathy load and cellular vulnerability to aggregate formation. Primary motor cortex phosphorylated (p)TDP-43 burden and microglial activation were more severe in sporadic ALS-TDP disease than C9-ALS. Oligodendroglial pTDP-43 pathology was a defining feature of ALS-TDP in sporadic ALS, C9-ALS and ALS with OPTN, HNRNPA1 or TARDBP mutations. ALS-FUS and ALS-SOD1 showed less cortical proteinopathy in relation to spinal cord pathology than ALS-TDP, where pathology was more evenly spread across the motor cortex-spinal cord axis. Neuronal pTDP-43 aggregates were rare in GAD67+ and Parvalbumin+ inhibitory interneurons, consistent with predominant accumulation in excitatory neurons. Finally, we show that cortical microglia, but not astrocytes, contain pTDP-43. Our findings suggest divergent quantitative, genotype-specific vulnerability of the ALS primary motor cortex to proteinopathies, which may have implications for our understanding of disease pathogenesis and the development of genotype-specific therapies.
Acta Neuropathol Commun
ALS, C9ORF72, FTD, Selective vulnerability, TDP-43