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Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) causes progressive personality, behavior and/or language disturbances and represents the second most common form of dementia under the age of 65. Over half of all FTD cases are classified pathologically as frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) with TAR DNA-binding protein of 43 kDa (TDP-43) pathology (FTLD-TDP). In FTLDTDP brains, TDP-43 is phosphorylated, C-terminally cleaved, lost from the nucleus and accumulates in the cytoplasm and processes of neurons and glia. However, the contribution of TDP-43 C-terminal fragments (CTFs) to pathogenesis remains poorly understood. Here, we developed transgenic (Tg) mice with forebrain Camk2a-controlled doxycycline-suppressible expression of a TDP-43 CTF (amino acids 208-414, designated 208 TDP-43 CTF), previously identified in FTLD-TDP brains. In these 208 TDP-43 Tg mice, detergent-insoluble 208 TDP-43 CTFwas present in a diffuse punctate pattern in neuronal cytoplasm and dendrites without forming large cytoplasmic inclusions. Remarkably, the hippocampus showed progressive neuron loss and astrogliosis in the dentate gyrus (DG). This was accompanied by phosphorylated TDP-43 in the CA1 subfield, and ubiquitin and mitochondria accumulations in the stratum lacunosum moleculare (SLM) layer, without loss of endogenous nuclear TDP- 43. Importantly, 208 TDP-43 CTF and phosphorylated TDP-43were rapidly cleared when CTF expressionwas suppressed in aged Tg mice, which ameliorated neuron loss in the DG despite persistence of ubiquitin accumulation in the SLM. Our results demonstrate that Camk2a-directed 208 TDP-43 CTF overexpression is sufficient to cause hippocampal pathology and neurodegeneration in vivo, suggesting an active role for TDP-43 CTFs in the pathogenesis of FTLD-TDP and related TDP-43 proteinopathies.
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