Characterization of Gene Expression Phenotype in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Monocytes

Weihua Zhao, David R. Beers, Kristopher G. Hooten, Douglas H. Sieglaff, Aijun Zhang, Shanker Kalyana-Sundaram, Christopher M. Traini, Wendy S. Halsey, Ashley M. Hughes, Ganesh M. Sathe, George P. Livi, Guo Huang Fan, Stanley H. Appel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


Importance: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a common adult-onset neurodegenerative disease characterized by selective loss of upper and lower motor neurons. Patients with ALS have persistent peripheral and central inflammatory responses including abnormally functioning T cells and activated microglia. However, much less is known about the inflammatory gene profile of circulating innate immune monocytes in these patients.

Objective: To characterize the transcriptomics of peripheral monocytes in patients with ALS.

Design, Setting, and Participants: Monocytes were isolated from peripheral blood of 43 patients with ALS and 22 healthy control individuals. Total RNA was extracted from the monocytes and subjected to deep RNA sequencing, and these results were validated by quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction.

Main Outcomes and Measures: The differential expressed gene signatures of these monocytes were identified using unbiased RNA sequencing strategy for gene expression profiling.

Results: The demographics between the patients with ALS (mean [SD] age, 58.8 [1.57] years; 55.8% were men and 44.2% were women; 90.7% were white, 4.65% were Hispanic, 2.33% were black, and 2.33% were Asian) and control individuals were similar (mean [SD] age, 57.6 [2.15] years; 50.0% were men and 50.0% were women; 90.9% were white, none were Hispanic, none were black, and 9.09% were Asian). RNA sequencing data from negative selected monocytes revealed 233 differential expressed genes in ALS monocytes compared with healthy control monocytes. Notably, ALS monocytes demonstrated a unique inflammation-related gene expression profile, the most prominent of which, including IL1B, IL8, FOSB, CXCL1, and CXCL2, were confirmed by quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (IL8, mean [SE], 1.00 [0.18]; P = .002; FOSB, 1.00 [0.21]; P = .009; CXCL1, 1.00 [0.14]; P = .002; and CXCL2, 1.00 [0.11]; P = .01). Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis monocytes from rapidly progressing patients had more proinflammatory DEGs than monocytes from slowly progressing patients.

Conclusions and Relevance: Our data indicate that ALS monocytes are skewed toward a proinflammatory state in the peripheral circulation and may play a role in ALS disease progression, especially in rapidly progressing patients. This increased inflammatory response of peripheral immune cells may provide a potential target for disease-modifying therapy in patients with ALS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)677-685
Number of pages9
JournalJAMA Neurology
Issue number6
Early online dateApr 24 2017
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


  • Journal Article

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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