Cognitive and other behavioural characteristics of 3-month-old heterozygous male transgenic mice expressing the 751-amino acid isoform of human amyloid precursor protein (hAPP751) under the control of a neurone-specific enolase promoter, were compared with those of age-matched non-transgenic control males. No difference was found between hAPP751 transgenics and non-transgenic controls in passive avoidance learning, or in motor coordination. Significantly decreased measures were found in the open field test and in cage activity indicative of general hypoactivity in hAPP751 transgenics. In water maze training, hAPP751 males required significantly longer to locate the hidden platform. This was not due to decreased swimming velocity in hAPP751 mice, but rather to increased path lengths. This suggests a purely spatial learning deficit in hAPP751 males even though their performance during a final spatial test, the probe trail that followed water maze training, was indistinguishable from that of controls. Decreased activity and impaired spatial learning were also reported in an independent study of hAPP751-expressing transgenics showing beta-amyloid immunoreactive deposits and altered tau protein. Since such histopathological alterations were not found in the transgenic model analysed in this study, our results indicate that beta-amyloid deposition is not required for the development of behavioural and/or cognitive deficits in hAPP751 transgenic mice.