Tangle-bearing neurons survive despite disruption of membrane integrity in a mouse model of tauopathy

Alix de Calignon, Tara L Spires-Jones, Rose Pitstick, George A Carlson, Bradley T Hyman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) are associated with neuronal loss and correlate with cognitive impairment in Alzheimer disease, but how NFTs relate to neuronal death is not clear. We studied cell death in Tg4510 mice that reversibly express P301L mutant human tau and accumulate NFTs using in vivo multiphoton imaging of neurofibrillary pathology, propidium iodide (PI) incorporation into cells, caspase activation, and DNA labeling. We first observed that in live mice, a minority of neurons were labeled with the caspase probe or with PI fluorescence. These markers of cell stress were localized in the same cells and appeared specifically within NFT-bearing neurons. Contrary to expectations, the PI-stained neurons did not die during a day of observation; the presence of Hoechst-positive nuclei in them on the subsequent day indicated that the NFT-associated membrane disruption, as suggested by PI staining, and caspase activation do not lead to immediate death of neurons in this tauopathy model. This unique combination of in vivo multiphoton imaging with markers of cell death and pathological alteration is a powerful tool for investigating neuronal damage associated with neurofibrillary pathology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)757-61
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009


  • Animals
  • Brain
  • Caspases
  • Cell Death
  • Cell Membrane
  • Cell Survival
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fluorescence
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence, Multiphoton
  • Nerve Degeneration
  • Neurofibrillary Tangles
  • Neurons
  • Propidium
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Tauopathies
  • Time Factors
  • tau Proteins


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