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In vivo imaging reveals reduced activity of neuronal circuits in a mouse tauopathy model.

Brain. 2019 Mar 7. pii: awz035. doi: 10.1093/brain/awz035. [Epub ahead of print]

Authors/Editors: Marinković P, Blumenstock S, Goltstein PM, Korzhova V, Peters F, Knebl A, Herms J.
Publication Date: 2019



Pathological alterations of tau protein play a significant role in the emergence and progression of neurodegenerative disorders. Tauopathies are characterized by detachment of the tau protein from neuronal microtubules, and its subsequent aberrant hyperphosphorylation, aggregation and cellular distribution. The exact nature of tau protein species causing neuronal malfunction and degeneration is still unknown. In the present study, we used mice transgenic for human tau with the frontotemporal dementia with parkinsonism-associated P301S mutation. These mice are prone to develop fibrillar tau inclusions, especially in the spinal cord and brainstem. At the same time, cortical neurons are not as strongly affected by fibrillar tau forms, but rather by soluble tau forms. We took advantage of the possibility to induce formation of neurofibrillary tangles in a subset of these cortical neurons by local injection of preformed synthetic tau fibrils. By using chronic in vivo two-photon calcium imaging in awake mice, we were able for the first time to follow the activity of individual tangle-bearing neurons and compare it to the activity of tangle-free neurons over the disease course. Our results revealed strong reduction of calcium transient frequency in layer 2/3 cortical neurons of P301S mice, independent of neurofibrillary tangle presence. These results clearly point to the impairing role of soluble, mutated tau protein species present in the majority of the neurons investigated in this study.

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