Synaptic alterations associated with disrupted sensory encoding in a mouse model of tauopathy

Soraya Meftah, Annalisa Cavallini, Tracey K Murray, Lukasz Jankowski, Suchira Bose, Michael C Ashby, Jonathan T Brown, Jonathan Witton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Synapse loss is currently the best biological correlate of cognitive decline in Alzheimer's disease and other tauopathies. Synapses seem to be highly vulnerable to tau-mediated disruption in neurodegenerative tauopathies. However, it is unclear how and when this leads to alterations in function related to the progression of tauopathy and neurodegeneration. We used the well-characterized rTg4510 mouse model of tauopathy at 5-6 months and 7-8 months of age, respectively, to study the functional impact of cortical synapse loss. The earlier age was used as a model of prodromal tauopathy, with the later age corresponding to more advanced tau pathology and presumed progression of neurodegeneration. Analysis of synaptic protein expression in the somatosensory cortex showed significant reductions in synaptic proteins and NMDA and AMPA receptor subunit expression in rTg4510 mice. Surprisingly, in vitro whole-cell patch clamp electrophysiology from putative pyramidal neurons in layer 2/3 of the somatosensory cortex suggested no functional alterations in layer 4 to layer 2/3 synaptic transmission at 5-6 months. From these same neurons, however, there were alterations in dendritic structure, with increased branching proximal to the soma in rTg4510 neurons. Therefore, in vivo whole-cell patch clamp recordings were utilized to investigate synaptic function and integration in putative pyramidal neurons in layer 2/3 of the somatosensory cortex. These recordings revealed a significant increase in the peak response to synaptically driven sensory stimulation-evoked activity and a loss of temporal fidelity of the evoked signal to the input stimulus in rTg4510 neurons. Together, these data suggest that loss of synapses, changes in receptor expression and dendritic restructuring may lead to alterations in synaptic integration at a network level. Understanding these compensatory processes could identify targets to help delay symptomatic onset of dementia.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberfcae134
JournalBrain Communications
Issue number3
Early online date15 Apr 2024
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2024

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2024. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Guarantors of Brain.


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