Comprehensive immune profiling reveals substantial immune system alterations in a subset of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Michael P. Gustafson, Nathan P. Staff, Svetlana Bornschlegl, Greg W. Butler, Mary L. Maas, Mohamed Kazamel, Adeel Zubair, Dennis A. Gastineau, Anthony J. Windebank, Allan B. Dietz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease with a median lifespan of 2–3 years after diagnosis. There are few meaningful treatments that alter progression in this disease. Preclinical and clinical studies have demonstrated that neuroinflammation may play a key role in the progression rate of ALS. Despite this, there are no validated biomarkers of neuroinflammation for use in clinical practice or clinical trials. Biomarkers of neuroinflammation could improve patient management, provide new therapeutic targets, and possibly help stratify clinical trial selection and monitoring. However, attempts to identify a singular cause of neuroinflammation have not been successful. Here, we performed multi-parameter flow cytometry to comprehensively assess 116 leukocyte populations and phenotypes from lymphocytes, monocytes, and granulocytes in a cohort of 80 ALS patients. We identified 32 leukocyte phenotypes that were altered in ALS patients compared to age and gender matched healthy volunteers (HV) that included phenotypes of both inflammation and immune suppression. Unsupervised hierarchical clustering and principle component analysis of ALS and HV immunophenotypes revealed two distinct immune profiles of ALS patients. ALS patients were clustered into a profile distinct from HVs primarily due to differences in a multiple T cell phenotypes, CD3+CD56+ T cells and HLA-DR on monocytes. Patients clustered into an abnormal immune profile were younger, more likely to have a familial form of the disease, and survived longer than those patients who clustered similarly with healthy volunteers (344 weeks versus 184 weeks; p = 0.012). The data set generated from this study establishes an extensive accounting of immunophenotypic changes readily suitable for biomarker validation studies. The extensive immune system changes measured in this study indicate that normal immune homeostatic mechanisms are disrupted in ALS patients, and that multiple immune states likely exist within a population of patients with ALS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0182002
JournalPloS one
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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