Abnormally phosphorylated tau, an early neuropathologic marker of Alzheimer's disease (AD), first occurs in the brain's entorhinal cortex layer II (ECII) and then spreads to the CA1 field of the hippocampus. Animal models of tau propagation aiming to recapitulate this phenomenon mostly show tau transfer from ECII stellate neurons to the dentate gyrus, but tau pathology in the dentate gyrus does not appear until advanced stages of AD. Wolframin-1- expressing (Wfs1+) pyramidal neurons have been shown functionally to modulate hippocampal CA1 neurons in mice. Here, we report that Wfs1+pyramidal neurons are conserved in the ECII of postmortem human brain tissue and that Wfs1 colocalized with abnormally phosphorylated tau in brains from individuals with early AD. Wfs1+neuron-specific expression of human P301L mutant tau in mouse ECII resulted in transfer of tau to hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons, suggesting spread of tau pathology as observed in the early Braak stages of AD. In mice expressing human mutant tau specifically in the ECII brain region, electrophysiological recordings of CA1 pyramidal neurons showed reduced excitability. Multielectrode array recordings of optogenetically stimulated Wfs1+ECII axons resulted in reduced CA1 neuronal firing. Chemogenetic activation of CA1 pyramidal neurons showed a reduction in c-fos+cells in the CA1. Last, a fear conditioning task revealed deficits in trace and contextual memory in mice overexpressing human mutant tau in the ECII. This work demonstrates tau transfer from the ECII to CA1 in mouse brain and provides an early Braak stage preclinical model of AD.
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