Tau is a neuronal microtubule-associated protein implicated in microtubules stabilization, axonal establishment and elongation during neuronal morphogenesis. Because of its elevated expression in neocortical regions and hippocampus, tau might play a role in sculpting collective neural responses underlying slow and fast brain oscillations and/or long-range synchronization patterns between hippocampus and neocortex. To test this hypothesis, local field potentials were recorded in tau-deficient (tau(-/-) ) and wild-type mice from different neocortical regions and from the hippocampus during spontaneous motor exploratory behavior. We found that tau(-/-) mice showed hippocampal theta slowing and reduced levels of gamma long-range synchronization involving the frontal cortex. We hypothesize that the lack of normal phosphorylated tau during early stages of development might influence the maturation of parvalbumin interneurons affecting the spatiotemporal structure of long-range gamma synchronization. Also, the proper functioning of gap-junction channels might be compromised by the absence of tau in hippocampal networks. Altogether, these results provide novel insights into the functional role of tau protein in the formation of collective neural responses and emergence of neocortical-hippocampal interactions in the mammalian brain.
Copyright © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.