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Dev Biol. 2013 Jul 15;379(2):229-34. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2013.04.026. Epub 2013 May 3.

The widely used Wnt1-Cre transgene causes developmental phenotypes by ectopic activation of Wnt signaling.

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Department of Cell and Tissue Biology, Program in Craniofacial and Mesenchymal Biology and Institute for Human Genetics, University of California at San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143, United States.


The Wnt1-Cre transgenic mouse line is extensively used in the study of the development of the neural crest and its derivatives and the midbrain. The Wnt1 gene has important developmental roles in formation of the midbrain-hindbrain boundary, regulation of midbrain size, and neurogenesis of ventral midbrain dopaminergic (mDA) neurons. Here, we report that Wnt1-Cre transgenic mice exhibit phenotypes in multiple aspects of midbrain development. Significant expansion of the midbrain and increased proliferation in the developing inferior colliculus is associated with ectopic expression of Wnt1. Marked elevation of Wnt1 expression in the ventral midbrain is correlated with disruption of the differentiation program of ventral mDA neurons. We find that these phenotypes can be attributed to ectopic expression of Wnt1 from the Wnt1-Cre transgene leading to the ectopic activation of canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling. Since these caveats could complicate the utility of Wnt1-Cre in some developmental circumstances, we report a new Wnt1-Cre2 transgenic mouse line that can serve the same purposes as the original without the associated phenotypic complications. These studies reveal an important caveat to a widely-used reagent, provide an improved version of this reagent, and indicate that the original Wnt1-Cre transgenic mouse line may be useful as a gain of function model for interrogating Wnt signaling mechanisms in multiple aspects of midbrain development.

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