We have established a novel transgenic rat line carrying human microtubule-associated protein Tau-40 with mutation P301L. hTau-40/P301L transgenic male and female rats were followed up to 2 years of age. The hTau-40/P301L rats expressed human tau mRNA and protein in the limbic cortex and associated white matter, hippocampus and spinal cord. With increasing age, the staining density for phosphorylated tau increased in all these areas. Neither silver stains nor Fluoro-Jade staining indicated the presence of dying neurons, or axonal degeneration, and there was no evidence of increased gliosis or inflammation. However, some neurons did display dendritic abnormalities, and immunoblots revealed the presence of sarcosyl insoluble tau. A large test battery revealed no behavioral abnormalities in these rats, except a mild hyperactivity in the elevated plus maze. In conclusion, this transgenic tau rat may be a useful model for 'pretangle' pathology, although in this study conditions were not sufficient to induce significant neuronal loss or behavioral deficits. © 2010 Elsevier Inc.