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Mol Cell Biol. 1996 Apr;16(4):1851-6.

Recycling selectable markers in mouse embryonic stem cells.

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  • 1Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


As a result of gene targeting, selectable markers are usually permanently introduced into the mammalian genome. Multiple gene targeting events in the same cell line can therefore exhaust the pool of markers available and limit subsequent manipulations or genetic analysis. In this study, we describe the combined use of homologous and CRE-loxP-mediated recombination to generate mouse embryonic stem cell lines carrying up to four targeted mutations and devoid of exogenous selectable markers. A cassette that contains both positive and negative selectable markers flanked by loxP sites, rendering it excisable by the CRE protein, was constructed. Homologous recombination and positive selection were used to disrupt the Rep-3 locus, a gene homologous to members of the mutS family of DNA mismatch repair genes. CRE-loxP-mediated recombination and negative selection were then used to recover clones in which the cassette had been excised. The remaining allele of Rep-3 was then subjected to a second round of targeting and excision with the same construct to generate homozygous, marker-free cell lines. Subsequently, both alleles of mMsh2, another mutS homolog, were disrupted in the same fashion to obtain cell lines homozygous for targeted mutations at both the Rep-3 and mMsh2 loci and devoid of selectable markers. Thus, embryonic stem cell lines obtained in this fashion are suitable for further manipulation and analysis involving the use of selectable markers.

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