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Structural abnormalities in the cortex of the rTg4510 mouse model of tauopathy: a light and electron microscopy study


rTg4510 transgenic (TG) mice overexpress mutant (P301L) human tau protein. We have compared the dorsal premotor cortex of TG mice versus non-transgenic (NT) mice at 4, 9, and 13 months of age, using light (LM) and electron microscopy (EM). LM assessment shows that cortical thickness in TG mice is reduced by almost 50% from 4 to 13 months of age, while at the same time layer I thickness is reduced by 80%, with most of the cortical thinning occurring between 4 and 9 months. In TG mice, spherical, empty vacuoles, up to 60 μm in diameter, become increasingly abundant with age and by 9 months, pyramidal and non-pyramidal neurons with large intracellular tangles of tau protein are common throughout the cortex. These tangles occur in the perikarya; we have not observed them entering into cellular processes, nor have we observed ghost tangles in the intercellular matrix. In TG mice, nerve fiber pathology is widespread by 13 months, and split myelin sheaths, ballooned sheaths, and swollen axons containing mitochondrial aggregations are all common. Astrocytes become increasingly filled with glial filaments as TG mice age, and microglial cells almost always contain phagocytic inclusions. However, no glial cells are seen to contain tau in their cytoplasm. These observations add to the base of knowledge available on this commonly employed model of tauopathy.

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We thank Claire Folger for her generous assistance and consultation on laboratory procedures over the course of this study. Grant Support: NIH/NIA R01 AG025062 (J. Luebke) and # P01 AG00001 (J. Luebke; A. Peters); NIH/NINDS R01 NS046355 and Alzheimer’s Association IIRG-06-27277 (J. Lewis).

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Correspondence to Jennifer I. Luebke.

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Ludvigson, A.E., Luebke, J.I., Lewis, J. et al. Structural abnormalities in the cortex of the rTg4510 mouse model of tauopathy: a light and electron microscopy study. Brain Struct Funct 216, 31–42 (2011).

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  • rTg4510
  • Tauopathy
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Pathology
  • Ultrastructure