How to Generate Conditional Knockout Mice with Cre

The bacterial Cre recombinase targets a specific DNA sequence called loxP and deletes a segment of DNA flanked by loxP sequences. This system is often used in the generation of knockout and conditional knockout animals.

The knockout of specific genes leading to embryonic lethal phenotype will not yield adult animals. Cre-lox recombination provides a means to knockout the specific genes in adult mice, or to introduce a knockout phenotype in specific tissues (conditional knockout) using tissue-specific promoter driven Cre or an inducible Cre.

The cutting by Cre at the loxP sites and rejoining by ligase is an efficient process. During this process, inverted loxP sites will result in an inversion, whereas direct repeat will cause a deletion. Cre/lox recombination is a one-way reaction so there is no need for continued Cre expression. Therefore, Cre can be introduced by adenovirus or lenti/retrovirus. Here is an example of using adnovirus-Cre in one lab: for MEF, on a 70% confluent P10 cm plate (probably 2-2.5 million cells), use 6ul of 1.1×10^12 adenovirus-Cre, which will give 80% infection; or use 10ul of 1.1×10^12 adenovirus-Cre to get 90% infection, with GFP as marker and analyzed by FACS.

Adenovirus could post a toxicity problem when used at very high titers to reach high percentage of transduction. An alternative is to use only lentivirus-Cre, at only about 1-2 ul and still obtain >80% infection. However, a silencing event needs to occur before the expression of Cre from lentivirus is shut off. The timing and degree of silencing is not controlled in such experiments. Continued expression of Cre should not influence most experiments.

To be certain that the Cre enzyme can be successfully delivered into the nucleus for conditional knockout to occur, the bacterial Cre gene needs to be engineered to contain a nuclear localization (nl) signal of eukaryotic cells. The function of the nuclear-localized Cre (nlCre) can be tested using a loxP-nuclear localized lacZ (nlacZ) reporter cell line, which can be used to monitor the function of the nlCre recombinase.

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Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010 Viruses and cells

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