Selective disruption of inhibitory synapses leading to neuronal hyperexcitability at an early stage of tau pathogenesis in a mouse model

Masafumi Shimojo, Hiroyuki Takuwa, Yuhei Takado, Masaki Tokunaga, Satoshi Tsukamoto, Keiichiro Minatohara, Maiko Ono, Chie Seki, Jun Maeda, Takuya Urushihata, Takeharu Minamihisamatsu, Ichio Aoki, Kazunori Kawamura, Ming Rong Zhang, Tetsuya Suhara, Naruhiko Sahara, Makoto Higuchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Synaptic dysfunction provoking dysregulated cortical neural circuits is currently hypothesized as a key pathophysiological process underlying clinical manifestations in Alzheimer’s disease and related neurodegenerative tauopathies. Here, we conducted PET along with postmortem assays to investigate time course changes of excitatory and inhibitory synaptic constituents in an rTg4510 mouse model of tauopathy, which develops tau pathologies leading to noticeable brain atrophy at 5-6months of age. Both male and female mice were analyzed in this study. We observed that radiosignals derived from [11C]flumazenil, a tracer for benzodiazepine receptor, in rTg4510 mice were significantly lower than the levels in nontransgenic littermates at 2-3months of age. In contrast, retentions of (E)-[11C]ABP688, a tracer for mGluR5, were unaltered relative to controls at 2months of age but then gradually declined with aging in parallel with progressive brain atrophy. Biochemical and immunohistochemical assessment of postmortem brain tissues demonstrated that inhibitory, but not excitatory, synaptic constituents selectively diminished without overt loss of somas of GABAergic interneurons in the neocortex and hippocampus of rTg4510 mice at 2months of age, which was concurrent with enhanced immunoreactivity of cFos, a well-characterized immediate early gene, suggesting that impaired inhibitory neurotransmission may cause hyperexcitability of cortical circuits. Our findings indicate that tau-induced disruption of the inhibitory synapse may be a critical trigger of progressive neurodegeneration, resulting in massive neuronal loss, and PET assessments of inhibitory versus excitatory synapses potentially offer in vivo indices for hyperexcitability and excitotoxicity early in the etiologic pathway of neurodegenerative tauopathies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3491-3501
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Apr 22
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • E/I balance
  • PET
  • Synapse
  • Tau

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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