Accumulation of the protein tau is a defining characteristic of several neurodegenerative diseases. Thorough assessment of transgenic (Tg) mouse lines that replicate this process is critical for establishing the models used for testing anti-tau therapeutics in vivo.Objective
To define a consistent mouse model of disease for use in future compound efficacy studies.Design, Setting, and Participants
In this time course study, cohorts of Tg and control mice were euthanized at defined intervals. Collected brains were bisected down the midline. One half was frozen and used to measure the tau prion content, while the other half was fixed for immunostaining with anti-tau antibodies. All mice were maintained at the Hunters Point Animal Facility at the University of California, San Francisco, and all experiments were performed at the Mission Bay Campus of the University of California, San Francisco. Study animals were PS19, homozygous and hemizygous Tg(MAPT*P301S), and B6/J mice. The study dates were August 9, 2010, to October 3, 2016.Main Outcomes and Measures
Tau prions were measured using a cell-based assay. Neuropathology was measured by determining the percentage area positive for immunostaining in defined brain regions. A separate cohort of mice was aged until each mouse developed neurological signs as determined by trained animal technicians to assess mortality.Results
A total of 1035 mice were used in this time course study. These included PS19 mice (51.2% [126 of 246] male and 48.8% [120 of 246] female), Tg(MAPT*P301S+/+) mice (52.3% [216 of 413] male, 43.8% [181 of 413] female, and 3.9% [16 of 413] undetermined), Tg(MAPT*P301S+/−) mice (51.8% [101 of 195] male and 48.2% [94 of 195] female), and B6/J mice (49.7% [90 of 181] male and 50.3% [91 of 181] female). While considerable interanimal variability in neuropathology, disease onset, and tau prion formation in the PS19 mice was observed, all 3 measures of disease were more uniform in the Tg(MAPT*P301S+/+) mice. Comparing tau prion formation in Tg(MAPT*P301S+/+) mice with B6/J controls, the 95% CIs for the 2 mouse lines diverged before age 5 weeks, and significant (P < .05) neuropathology in the hindbrain of 24-week-old mice was quantifiable.Conclusions and Relevance
The assessment of disease progression using 3 criteria showed that disease onset in PS19 mice is too variable to obtain reliable measurements for drug discovery research. However, the reproducibility of tau prion formation in young Tg(MAPT*P301S+/+) mice establishes a rapid assay for compound efficacy in vivo.