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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Development of transgenic rats producing human β-amyloid precursor protein as a model for Alzheimer's disease: Transgene and endogenous APP genes are regulated tissue-specifically

Cansu Agca1, Jason J Fritz2, Lary C Walker23, Allan I Levey2, Anthony WS Chan3*, James J Lah2* and Yuksel Agca1*

Author Affiliations

1 University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Veterinary Pathobiology Columbia, MO 65211, USA

2 Department of Neurology and Center for Neurodegenerative Disease, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA

3 Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30329, USA

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BMC Neuroscience 2008, 9:28  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-9-28

Published: 26 February 2008

Abstract

Background

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder that affects a large and growing number of elderly individuals. In addition to idiopathic disease, AD is also associated with autosomal dominant inheritance, which causes a familial form of AD (FAD). Some instances of FAD have been linked to mutations in the β-amyloid protein precursor (APP). Although there are numerous mouse AD models available, few rat AD models, which have several advantages over mice, have been generated.

Results

Fischer 344 rats expressing human APP driven by the ubiquitin-C promoter were generated via lentiviral vector infection of Fischer 344 zygotes. We generated two separate APP-transgenic rat lines, APP21 and APP31. Serum levels of human amyloid-beta (Aβ)40 were 298 pg/ml for hemizygous and 486 pg/ml for homozygous APP21 animals. Serum Aβ42 levels in APP21 homozygous rats were 135 pg/ml. Immunohistochemistry in brain showed that the human APP transgene was expressed in neurons, but not in glial cells. These findings were consistent with independent examination of enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP) in the brains of eGFP-transgenic rats. APP21 and APP31 rats expressed 7.5- and 3-times more APP mRNA, respectively, than did wild-type rats. Northern blots showed that the human APP transgene, driven by the ubiquitin-C promoter, is expressed significantly more in brain, kidney and lung compared to heart and liver. A similar expression pattern was also seen for the endogenous rat APP. The unexpected similarity in the tissue-specific expression patterns of endogenous rat APP and transgenic human APP mRNAs suggests regulatory elements within the cDNA sequence of APP.

Conclusion

This manuscript describes the generation of APP-transgenic inbred Fischer 344 rats. These are the first human AD model rat lines generated by lentiviral infection. The APP21 rat line expresses high levels of human APP and could be a useful model for AD. Tissue-specific expression in the two transgenic rat lines and in wild-type rats contradicts our current understanding of APP gene regulation. Determination of the elements that are responsible for tissue-specific expression of APP may enable new treatment options for AD.