Chronic White Matter Degeneration, But No Tau Pathology at One-Year Post-Repetitive Mild Traumatic Brain Injury in a Tau Transgenic Model.
Tau pathology associated with chronic traumatic encephalopathy has been documented in the brains of individuals with a history of repetitive mild traumatic brain injury (r-mTBI). At this stage, the pathobiological role of tau in r-mTBI has not been extensively explored in appropriate pre-clinical models. Here, we describe the acute and chronic behavioral and histopathological effects of single and repetitive mild TBI (five injuries given at 48 h intervals) in young adult (3 months old) hTau mice that express all six isoforms of hTau on a murine tau background. Animals exposed to r-mTBI showed impaired visuospatial learning in the Barnes maze test that progressively worsened from two weeks to 12 months post-injury, which was also accompanied by significant deficits in visuospatial memory consolidation at 12 months post-injury. In contrast, only marginal changes were observed in visuospatial learning at six and 12 months after single mTBI. Histopathological analyses revealed that hTau mice developed axonal injury, thinning of the corpus callosum, microgliosis and astrogliosis in the white matter at acute and chronic time points after injury. Tau immunohistochemistry and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay data suggest, however, only transient, injury-dependent increases in phosphorylated tau in the cerebral cortex beneath the impact site and in the CA1/CA3 subregion of the hippocampus after single or r-mTBI. This study implicates white matter degeneration as a prominent feature of survival from mTBI, while the role of tau pathology in the neuropathological sequelae of TBI remains elusive.
School of Medicine