Neurodegeneration caused by expression of human truncated tau leads to progressive neurobehavioural impairment in transgenic rats.
Human truncated tau protein is an active constituent of the neurofibrillary degeneration in sporadic Alzheimer's disease. We have shown that modified tau protein, when expressed as a transgene in rats, induced AD characteristic tau cascade consisting of tau hyperphosphorylation, formation of argyrophilic tangles and sarcosyl-insoluble tau complexes. These pathological changes led to the functional impairment characterized by a variety of neurobehavioural symptoms. In the present study we have focused on the behavioural alterations induced by transgenic expression of human truncated tau. Transgenic rats underwent a battery of behavioural tests involving cognitive- and sensorimotor-dependent tasks accompanied with neurological assessment at the age of 4.5, 6 and 9 months. Behavioural examination of these rats showed altered spatial navigation in Morris water maze resulting in less time spent in target quadrant (p<0.05) and fewer crossings over previous platform position (p<0.05) during probe trial. Spontaneous locomotor activity and anxiety in open field was not influenced by transgene expression. However beam walking test revealed that transgenic rats developed progressive sensorimotor disturbances related to the age of tested animals. The disturbances were most pronounced at the age of 9 months (p<0.01). Neurological alterations indicating impaired reflex responses were other added features of behavioural phenotype of this novel transgenic rat. These results allow us to suggest that neurodegeneration, caused by the non-mutated human truncated tau derived from sporadic human AD, result in the neuronal dysfunction consequently leading to the progressive neurobehavioural impairment.