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J Neurosci Methods. 2004 Oct 30;139(2):257-62.

Tetracycline-inducible expression systems for the generation of transgenic animals: a comparison of various inducible systems carried in a single vector.

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Cellular Neurobiology Branch, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, 5500 Nathan Shock Drive, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA.


The most often used tetracycline-regulated transgenic mice system requires the generation of two transgenic strains, one carrying an inducible promoter and the other a transactivator. In this study, we report the design of a universal and simplified regulatory gene delivery vector to facilitate the generation of conditional transgenic animals that integrate both the tetracycline regulatory and response elements in a single vector. The newly developed tetracycline reversed transactivator rtTA-M2 was used in all our constructs, based on its highly improved properties with respect to specificity, stability and inducibility. To minimize interference between the different tetracycline-inducible promoters used in this study (tetracycline-responsive element (TRE), TRE-tight, or Tk-tetO) and the rtTA-M2 transactivator, both elements were cloned in opposite directions and separated by a 5 kb human p53 intron. The functionality of this system was confirmed after in vitro transfection in a mammalian cell line. Overall induction by the tetracycline-responsive element promoter was significantly higher than that induced by the newly developed TRE-tight promoter. However, the TRE-tight promoter showed a significantly tighter expression with minimal background, and still maintained high induction levels. The minimal Tk-tetO promoter showed a very weak induction capacity. Our study demonstrates that this combination of elements, placed in a single vector is sufficient for delivering a functional tetracycline-inducible system to a mammalian cell line. Moreover, additional modifications to this regulatory gene delivery system, such as the introduction of specific cloning sites and selection markers, have been designed with the idea of creating a simplified and universal inducible system to facilitate the generation of conditional transgenic, knock-out, and knock-in animals.

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