Overexpression of hAPPswe impairs rewarded alternation and contextual fear conditioning in a transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer's disease.
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One of the hallmarks of the pathology in Alzheimer's disease is the deposition of amyloid plaques throughout the brain, especially within the hippocampus and amygdala. Transgenic mice that overexpress the Swedish mutation of human amyloid precursor protein (hAPPswe; Tg2576) show age-dependent memory deficits in hippocampus-dependent learning tasks. However, the performance of aged Tg2576 mice in amygdala-dependent learning tasks has not been thoroughly assessed. We trained young (2-4 mo) and old (16-18 mo) Tg2576 and wild-type mice in a T-maze alternation task (hippocampus-dependent) and a Pavlovian fear-conditioning task (amygdala- and hippocampus-dependent). As previously reported, old Tg2576 mice showed impaired acquisition of rewarded alternation; none of these mice reached the criterion of at least five out of six correct responses over three consecutive days. In contrast, old Tg2576 mice showed normal levels of conditional freezing to an auditory conditional stimulus (CS) and acquired a contextual discrimination normally. However, when the salience of the fear-conditioning context was decreased, old (12-14 mo) Tg2576 mice were impaired at acquiring fear to the conditioning context, but not to the tone CS. Histological examination of a subset of the mice verified the existence of amyloid plaques in the cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala of old, but not young, Tg2576 mice. Hence, learning and memory deficits in old Tg2576 mice are limited to hippocampus-dependent tasks, despite widespread amyloid deposition in cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala.