The microtubule-associated protein tau is expressed throughout the nervous system, most highly in neurons but also in glial cells. Its functions in adult and aging mammals remain to be defined. Previous studies in mouse models found either protective or detrimental effects of genetic tau ablation. Though tau ablation prevented synaptic, network, and cognitive dysfunctions in several models of Alzheimer's disease and made mice more resistant to epileptic seizures, a recent study described a parkinsonian phenotype in aging Tau knockout mice. Here we tested cognition and motor functions in Tau(+/+), Tau(+/-), and Tau(-/-) mice at approximately 1 and 2 years of age. Tau ablation did not impair cognition and caused only minor motor deficits that were much more subtle than those associated with the aging process. Tau ablation caused a mild increase in body weight, which correlated with and might have contributed to some of the motor deficits. However, tau ablation did not cause significant dopaminergic impairments, and dopamine treatment did not improve the motor deficits, suggesting that they do not reflect extrapyramidal dysfunction.
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