Accumulation of phosphorylated cytoplasmic TDP-43 inclusions accompanied by loss of normal nuclear TDP-43 in neurons and glia of the brain and spinal cord are the molecular hallmarks of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD-TDP). However, the role of cytoplasmic TDP-43 in the pathogenesis of these neurodegenerative TDP-43 proteinopathies remains unclear, due in part to a lack of valid mouse models. We therefore generated new mice with doxycycline (Dox)-suppressible expression of human TDP-43 (hTDP-43) harboring a defective nuclear localization signal (∆NLS) under the control of the neurofilament heavy chain promoter. Expression of hTDP-43∆NLS in these 'regulatable NLS' (rNLS) mice resulted in the accumulation of insoluble, phosphorylated cytoplasmic TDP-43 in brain and spinal cord, loss of endogenous nuclear mouse TDP-43 (mTDP-43), brain atrophy, muscle denervation, dramatic motor neuron loss, and progressive motor impairments leading to death. Notably, suppression of hTDP-43∆NLS expression by return of Dox to rNLS mice after disease onset caused a dramatic decrease in phosphorylated TDP-43 pathology, an increase in nuclear mTDP-43 to control levels, and the prevention of further motor neuron loss. rNLS mice back on Dox also showed a significant increase in muscle innervation, a rescue of motor impairments, and a dramatic extension of lifespan. Thus, the rNLS mice are new TDP-43 mouse models that delineate the timeline of pathology development, muscle denervation and neuron loss in ALS/FTLD-TDP. Importantly, even after neurodegeneration and onset of motor dysfunction, removal of cytoplasmic TDP-43 and the concomitant return of nuclear TDP-43 led to neuron preservation, muscle re-innervation and functional recovery.
Keywords: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); Frontotemporal dementia (FTD); Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD); Motor neuron; Mouse model; Neurodegeneration; Spinal cord; TDP-43.