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Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2007;(178):441-68.

Conditional mouse models to study developmental and pathophysiological gene function in muscle.

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  • 1Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics, The Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center, The University of Virginia, 415 Lane Road, Medical Research Building 5, Room 1226, P.O. Box 801394, Charlottesville VA 22908, USA.


This chapter will review conditional mouse model systems that have been developed to study gene function in skeletal, cardiac, and vascular smooth muscle cells in vivo with an emphasis on the utility of these models for investigating developmental and pathophysiological gene function in muscle. In general, these systems have utilized muscle-specific/selective promoter-enhancers in conjunction with site-specific DNA recombinases, e.g., Cre-loxP, and fusion proteins with these recombinases that confer temporal control, such as tamoxifen-inducible CreER systems. A major focus of this chapter will be to discuss unique challenges of studying Cre-mediated mutagenesis/gene targeting in these muscle types during development and in the adult animal, some of which are inherent of the muscle cell type being studied. For example, unlike cardiac and skeletal muscle cells, the vascular SMC is extremely plastic and able to undergo rapid phenotypic modulation to various environmental cues in vivo. Thus, employing SMC marker gene promoter enhancers for conditional gene targeting in SMCs must take into account the possibility and/or certainty that the particular SMC promoter enhancers used may or may not be transcriptionally active in SMCs of a vessel wall under normal and some pathophysiological conditions. Moreover, individual floxed loci within the same muscle cell type and tissue have different degrees of sensitivity to Cre, most likely dependent on the chromatin state of that particular gene, i.e., closed/condensed state or open/active state. Thus, Cre recombination may be ineffective for specific floxed gene DNA. Lastly, rigorous efforts must be made to confirm the degree of recombination in a tissue, taking into full account the multicellularity of the tissue, to understand the extent of the physiological effect in that organ.

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