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Brain Res Brain Res Rev. 2001 Jul;35(3):266-86.

Tau and transgenic animal models.

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  • 1Division of Psychiatry Research, University of Zürich, August Forel Strasse 1, 8008, Zürich, Switzerland.


Advances in genetics and transgenic approaches have a continuous impact on our understanding of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and related disorders, especially as aspects of the histopathology and neurodegeneration can be reproduced in animal models. AD is characterized by extracellular Abeta peptide-containing plaques and neurofibrillary aggregates of hyperphosphorylated isoforms of microtubule-associated protein tau. A causal link between Abeta production, neurodegeneration and dementia has been established with the identification of familial forms of AD which are linked to mutations in the amyloid precursor protein APP, from which the Abeta peptide is derived by proteolysis. No mutations have been identified in the tau gene in AD until today. Tau filament formation, in the absence of Abeta production, is also a feature of several additional neurodegenerative diseases including progressive supranuclear palsy, corticobasal degeneration, Pick's disease, and frontotemporal dementia with parkinsonism linked to chromosome 17 (FTDP-17). The identification of mutations in the tau gene which are linked to FTDP-17 established that dysfunction of tau can, as well as Abeta formation, lead to neurodegeneration and dementia. In this review, newly recognized cellular functions of tau, and the neuropathology and clinical syndrome of FTDP-17 will be presented, as well as recent advances that have been achieved in studies of transgenic mice expressing tau and AD-related kinases and phosphatases. These models link neurofibrillary lesion formation to neuronal loss, provide an in vivo model in which therapies can be assessed, and may contribute to determine the relationship between Abeta production and tau pathology.

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