Increased Hippocampal Excitability in the 3xTgAD Mouse Model for Alzheimer's Disease In Vivo

Mouse Alzheimer's disease (AD) models develop age- and region-specific pathology throughout the hippocampal formation. One recently established pathological correlate is an increase in hippocampal excitability in vivo. Hippocampal pathology also produces episodic memory decline in human AD and we have shown a similar episodic deficit in 3xTg AD model mice aged 3-6 months. Here, we tested whether hippocampal synaptic dysfunction accompanies this cognitive deficit by probing dorsal CA1 and DG synaptic responses in anaesthetized, 4-6 month-old 3xTgAD mice. As our previous reports highlighted a decline in episodic performance in aged control mice, we included aged cohorts for comparison. CA1 and DG responses to low-frequency perforant path stimulation were comparable between 3xTgAD and controls at both age ranges. As expected, DG recordings in controls showed paired-pulse depression; however, paired-pulse facilitation was observed in DG and CA1 of young and old 3xTgAD mice. During stimulus trains both short-latency (presumably monosynaptic: 'direct') and long-latency (presumably polysynaptic: 're-entrant') responses were observed. Facilitation of direct responses was modest in 3xTgAD animals. However, re-entrant responses in DG and CA1 of young 3xTgAD mice developed earlier in the stimulus train and with larger amplitude when compared to controls. Old mice showed less DG paired-pulse depression and no evidence for re-entrance. In summary, DG and CA1 responses to low-frequency stimulation in all groups were comparable, suggesting no loss of synaptic connectivity in 3xTgAD mice. However, higher-frequency activation revealed complex change in synaptic excitability in DG and CA1 of 3xTgAD mice. In particular, short-term plasticity in DG and CA1 was facilitated in 3xTgAD mice, most evidently in younger animals. In addition, re-entrance was facilitated in young 3xTgAD mice. Overall, these data suggest that the episodic-like memory deficit in 3xTgAD mice could be due to the development of an abnormal hyper-excitable state in the hippocampal formation.