APP transgenic mice: their use and limitations

Neuromolecular Med. 2011 Jun;13(2):117-37. doi: 10.1007/s12017-010-8141-7. Epub 2010 Dec 9.


Alzheimer's disease is the most widespread form of dementia. Its histopathological hallmarks include vascular and extracellular β-amyloid (Aβ) deposition and intraneuronal neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs). Gradual decline of cognitive functions linked to progressive synaptic loss makes patients unable to store new information in the earlier stages of the pathology, later becoming completely dependent because they are unable to do even elementary daily life actions. Although more than a hundred years have passed since Alois Alzheimer described the first case of AD, and despite many years of intense research, there are still many crucial points to be discovered in the neuropathological pathway. The development of transgenic mouse models engineered with overexpression of the amyloid precursor protein carrying familial AD mutations has been extremely useful. Transgenic mice present the hallmarks of the pathology, and histological and behavioural examination supports the amyloid hypothesis. As in human AD, extracellular Aβ deposits surrounded by activated astrocytes and microglia are typical features, together with synaptic and cognitive defects. Although animal models have been widely used, they are still being continuously developed in order to recapitulate some missing aspects of the disease. For instance, AD therapeutic agents tested in transgenic mice gave encouraging results which, however, were very disappointing in clinical trials. Neuronal cell death and NFTs typical of AD are much harder to replicate in these mice, which thus offer a fundamental but still imperfect tool for understanding and solving dementia pathology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics*
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor / genetics*
  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Genetic Engineering / methods
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic / genetics*


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Amyloid beta-Protein Precursor