Longitudinal characterization of retinal vasculature alterations with optical coherence tomography angiography in a mouse model of tauopathy

Seth Buscho, Erick Palacios, Fan Xia, Shuizhen Shi, Shengguo Li, Jonathan Luisi, Rakez Kayed, Massoud Motamedi, Wenbo Zhang, Hua Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tauopathies are a family of neurodegenerative diseases which predominately afflict the rapidly growing aging population suffering from various brain disorders including Alzheimer's disease, frontotemporal dementia with parkinsonism-17 and Pick disease. As the only visually accessible region of the central nervous system, in recent years, the retina has attracted extensive attention for its potential as a target for visualizing and quantifying emerging biomarkers of neurodegenerative diseases. Our previous study has found that retinal vascular inflammation and leakage occur at the very early stage of tauopathic mouse model. Here, we aimed to non-invasively visualize age-dependent alterations of retinal vasculature assessing the potential for using changes in retinal vasculature as the biomarker for the early diagnosis of tauopathy. Optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA), a non-invasive depth-resolved high-resolution imaging technique was used to visualize and quantify tauopathy-induced alterations of retinal vasculature in P301S transgenic mice overexpressing the P301S mutant form of human tau and age-matched wild type littermate mice at 3, 6 and 10 months of age. We observed significant alterations of vascular features in the intermediate capillary plexus (ICP) and deep capillary plexus (DCP) but not in the superficial vascular complex (SVC) of P301S mice at early stages of tauopathy. With aging, alterations of vascular features in P301S mice became more prominent in all three vascular plexuses. Staining of retinal vasculature in flatmounts and trypsin digests of P301S mice at 10 months of age revealed decreased vessel density and increased acellular capillary formation, indicating that vascular degeneration also occurs during tauopathy. Overall, our results demonstrate that the changes in retinal vascular features accelerate during the progression of tauopathy. Vessels in the ICP and DCP may be more susceptible to tauopathy than vessels in the SVC. Since changes in retinal vasculature often precede tau pathology in the brain, non-invasive identification of retinal vascular alterations with OCTA may be a useful biomarker for the early diagnosis of tauopathy and monitoring its progression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109240
JournalExperimental Eye Research
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Biomarker
  • Optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA)
  • Retinal vascular alterations
  • Tauopathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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