Studies have recently demonstrated that a caspase-2-mediated cleavage of human tau (htau) at asparate-314 (D314) is responsible for cognitive deficits and neurodegeneration in mice modeling frontotemporal dementia (FTD). However, these animal studies may be confounded by flaws in their model systems, such as endogenous functional gene disruption and inequivalent transgene expression. To avoid these weaknesses, we examined the pathogenic role of this site-specific htau cleavage in FTD using genetically matched htau targeted-insertion mouse lines: rT2 and rT3. Both male and female mice were included in this study. rT2 mice contain a single copy of the FTD-linked htau proline-to-leucine mutation at amino acid 301 (htau P301L), inserted into a neutral site to avoid dysregulation of host gene expression. The similarly constructed rT3 mice harbor an additional D314-to-glutamate (D314E) mutation that blocks htau cleavage. We demonstrate that htau transgene expression occurs primarily in the forebrain at similar levels in rT2 and rT3 mice. Importantly, expression of the cleavage-resistant D314E mutant delays transgene-induced tau accumulation in the postsynaptic density, brain atrophy, hippocampal neurodegeneration, and spatial memory impairment, without altering age-related progression of pathologic tau conformation and phosphorylation. Our comprehensive investigation of age-dependent disease phenotypes associated with the htau P301L variant in precisely engineered FTD-modeling mice unveils a transiently protective effect of blocking htau cleavage at D314. Findings of this study advance our understanding of the contribution of this tau cleavage to the pathogenesis of FTD, and aid the development of effective dementia-targeting therapies.
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- microtubule-associated protein tau
- mouse model