Pathological inclusions containing transactive response DNA-binding protein 43 kDa (TDP-43) are common in several neurodegenerative diseases including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). TDP-43 normally localizes predominantly to the nucleus, but during disease progression, it mislocalizes to the cytoplasm. We expressed TDP-43 in rats by an adeno-associated virus (AAV9) gene transfer method that transduces neurons throughout the central nervous system (CNS). To mimic the aberrant cytoplasmic TDP-43 found in disease, we expressed a form of TDP-43 with mutations in the nuclear localization signal sequence (TDP-NLS). The TDP-NLS was detected in both the cytoplasm and the nucleus of transduced neurons. Unlike wild-type TDP-43, expression of TDP-NLS did not induce mortality. However, the TDP-NLS induced disease-relevant motor impairments over 24 weeks. We compared the TDP-NLS to a 25 kDa C-terminal proaggregatory fragment of TDP-43 (TDP-25). The clinical phenotype of forelimb impairment was pronounced with the TDP-25 form, supporting a role of this C-terminal fragment in pathogenesis. The results advance previous rodent models by inducing cytoplasmic expression of TDP-43 in the spinal cord, and the non-lethal phenotype enabled long-term study. Approaching a more relevant disease state in an animal model that more closely mimics underlying mechanisms in human disease could unlock our ability to develop therapeutics.