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PLoS One. 2014 Mar 13;9(3):e91219. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0091219. eCollection 2014.

Hydrodynamic delivery of Cre protein to lineage-mark or time-stamp mouse hepatocytes in situ.

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  • 1Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, United States of America.
  • 2Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, United States of America.

Abstract

Cre-responsive fluorescent marker alleles are powerful tools for cell lineage tracing in mice; however their utility is limited by regulation of Cre activity. When targeting hepatocytes, hydrodynamic delivery of a Cre-expression plasmid can convert Cre-responsive alleles without inducing the intracellular or systemic antiviral responses often associated with viral-derived Cre-expression vectors. In this method, rapid high-volume intravenous inoculation induces hepatocyte-targeted uptake of extracellular molecules. Here we tested whether hydrodynamic delivery of Cre protein or Cre fused to the HIV-TAT cell-penetrating peptide could convert Cre-responsive reporters in hepatocytes of mice. Hydrodynamic delivery of 2 nmol of either Cre or TAT-Cre protein converted the reporter allele in 5 to 20% of hepatocytes. Neither protein gave detectable Cre activity in endothelia, non-liver organs, or non-hepatocyte cells in liver. Using mice homozygous for a Cre-responsive marker that directs red- (Cre-naïve) or green- (Cre-converted) fluorescent proteins to the nucleus, we assessed sub-saturation Cre-activity. One month after hydrodynamic inoculation with Cre protein, 58% of hepatocyte nuclei that were green were also red, indicating that less than half of the hepatocytes that had obtained enough Cre to convert one marker allele to green were able to convert all alleles. For comparison, one month after hydrodynamic delivery of a Cre-expression plasmid with a weak promoter, only 26% of the green nuclei were also red. Our results show that hydrodynamic delivery of Cre protein allows rapid allelic conversion in hepatocytes, but Cre-activity is sub-saturating so many cells will not convert multiple Cre-responsive alleles.

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