To systematically study somatic variants arising during development in the human brain across a spectrum of neurodegenerative disorders. In this study we developed a pipeline to identify somatic variants from exome sequencing data in 1461 diseased and control human brains. Eighty-eight percent of the DNA samples were extracted from the cerebellum. Identified somatic variants were validated by targeted amplicon sequencing and/or PyroMark® Q24. We observed somatic coding variants present in >10% of sampled cells in at least 1% of brains. The mutational signature of the detected variants showed a predominance of C>T variants most consistent with arising from DNA mismatch repair, occurred frequently in genes that are highly expressed within the central nervous system, and with a minimum somatic mutation rate of 4.25 × 10 per base pair per individual. These findings provide proof-of-principle that deleterious somatic variants can affect sizeable brain regions in at least 1% of the population, and thus have the potential to contribute to the pathogenesis of common neurodegenerative diseases.
CLARITY enables immunofluorescent labelling and imaging of large volumes of tissue to provide a better insight into the three dimensional relationship between cellular morphology and spatial interactions between different cell types. In the current study, we optimise passive CLARITY and immunofluorescent labelling of neurons and mitochondrial proteins in mouse and human brain tissues to gain further insights into mechanisms of neurodegeneration occurring in mitochondrial disease. This is the first study to utilise human cerebellum fixed in paraformaldehyde and cryoprotected in conjunction with formalin-fixed tissues opening up further avenues for use of archived tissue. We optimised hydrogel-embedding and passive clearance of lipids from both mouse (n = 5) and human (n = 9) cerebellum as well as developing an immunofluorescent protocol that consistently labels different neuronal domains as well as blood vessels. In addition to visualising large structures, we were able to visualise mitochondrial proteins in passively cleared tissues to reveal respiratory chain deficiency associated with mitochondrial disease. We also demonstrate multiple use of tissues by stripping antibodies and re-probing the cerebellum. This technique allows interrogation of large volumes intact brain samples for better understanding of the complex pathological changes taking place in mitochondrial disease.