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Breast Cancer Res. 2014 Jan 23;16(1):R11. doi: 10.1186/bcr3603.

Inducible and coupled expression of the polyomavirus middle T antigen and Cre recombinase in transgenic mice: an in vivo model for synthetic viability in mammary tumour progression.



Effective in vivo models of breast cancer are crucial for studying the development and progression of the disease in humans. We sought to engineer a novel mouse model of polyomavirus middle T antigen (PyV mT)-mediated mammary tumourigenesis in which inducible expression of this well-characterized viral oncoprotein is coupled to Cre recombinase (TetO-PyV mT-IRES-Cre recombinase or MIC).


MIC mice were crossed to the mouse mammary tumour virus (MMTV)-reverse tetracycline transactivator (rtTA) strain to generate cohorts of virgin females carrying one or both transgenes. Experimental (rtTA/MIC) and control (rtTA or MIC) animals were administered 2 mg/mL doxycycline beginning as early as eight weeks of age and monitored for mammary tumour formation, in parallel with un-induced controls of the same genotypes.


Of the rtTA/MIC virgin females studied, 90% developed mammary tumour with complete penetrance to all glands in response to doxycycline and a T50 of seven days post-induction, while induced or un-induced controls remained tumour-free after one year of induction. Histological analyses of rtTA/MIC mammary glands and tumour revealed that lesions followed the canonical stepwise progression of PyV mT tumourigenesis, from hyperplasia to mammary intraepithelial neoplasia/adenoma, carcinoma, and invasive carcinoma that metastasizes to the lung; at each of these stages expression of PyV mT and Cre recombinase transgenes was confirmed. Withdrawal of doxycycline from rtTA/MIC mice with end-stage mammary tumours led to rapid regression, yet animals eventually developed PyV mT-expressing and -non-expressing recurrent masses with varied tumour histopathologies.


We have successfully created a temporally regulated mouse model of PyV mT-mediated mammary tumourigenesis that can be used to study Cre recombinase-mediated genetic changes simultaneously. While maintaining all of the hallmark features of the well-established constitutive MMTV-PyV mT model, the utility of this strain derives from the linking of PyV mT and Cre recombinase transgenes; mammary epithelial cells are thereby forced to couple PyV mT expression with conditional ablation of a given gene. This transgenic mouse model will be an important research tool for identifying synthetic viable genetic events that enable PyV mT tumours to evolve in the absence of a key signaling pathway.

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