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Genetica. 2004 Sep;122(1):9-24.

Chemical mutagenesis of the mouse genome: an overview.

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Institut Pasteur, Unité de Génétique des Mammifères 25, rue du Docteur Roux, 75724 Paris 15, France.


The careful comparison of the phenotypic variations generated by different alleles at a given locus, including of course, those alleles with a deleterious effect, is often an important source of information for the understanding of gene functions. In fact, every time it is possible to match a specific alteration observed at the genomic level with a particular pathology, it is possible to establish a relationship between a gene and its function. When considered from this point of view, the production of new mutations by experimental mutagenesis appears as an alternative to the strategy of in vitro gene invalidation by homologous recombination in embryonic stem (ES) cells, with the advantage that experimental mutagenesis does not require any previous knowledge of the gene structure at the molecular level. Homologous recombination in ES cells is a 'gene driven' approach, in which mutant alleles are produced for those genes that we already know. Experimental mutagenesis, on the contrary, is a 'phenotype driven' approach, in which unknown genes are identified based on phenotypic changes. Also, while homologous recombination in ES cells requires a rather sophisticated technology, mutagenesis is simple to achieve but relies greatly on the efficiency of the mutagenic treatment as well as on the use of an accurate protocol for phenotyping. In this review, we will address a few comments about the different techniques that can be used for the induction of point mutations in the mouse germ line with special emphasis on chemical mutagenesis. We will also discuss the limitations of experimental mutagenesis and the necessity to look for alternative ways for the discovery of new genes and gene functions in the mouse.

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