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PLoS One. 2014 Oct 1;9(10):e109193. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0109193. eCollection 2014.

Hemizygous Le-Cre transgenic mice have severe eye abnormalities on some genetic backgrounds in the absence of LoxP sites.

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Centre for Integrative Physiology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom.
Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit, Medical Research Council Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom.


Eye phenotypes were investigated in Le-Cre(Tg/-); Pax6(fl/+) mice, which were expected to show tissue-specific reduction of Pax6 in surface ectoderm derivatives. To provide a better comparison with our previous studies of Pax6(+/-) eye phenotypes, hemizygous Le-Cre(Tg/-) and heterozygous Pax6(fl/+)mice were crossed onto the CBA/Ca genetic background. After the Le-Cre transgene had been backcrossed to CBA/Ca for seven generations, significant eye abnormalities occurred in some hemizygous Le-Cre(Tg/-); Pax6(+/+) controls (without a floxed Pax6(fl) allele) as well as experimental Le-Cre(Tg/-); Pax6(fl/+) mice. However, no abnormalities were seen in Le-Cre(-/-); Pax6(fl/+) or Le-Cre(-/-); Pax6(+/+) controls (without the Le-Cre transgene). The severity and frequency of the eye abnormalities in Le-Cre(Tg/-); Pax6(+/+) control mice diminished after backcrossing Le-Cre(Tg/-) mice to the original FVB/N strain for two generations, showing that the effect was reversible. This genetic background effect suggests that the eye abnormalities are a consequence of an interaction between the Le-Cre transgene and alleles of unknown modifier genes present in certain genetic backgrounds. The abnormalities were also ameliorated by introducing additional Pax6 gene copies on a CBA/Ca background, suggesting involvement of Pax6 depletion in Le-Cre(Tg/-); Pax6(+/+) mice rather than direct action of Cre recombinase on cryptic pseudo-loxP sites. One possibility is that expression of Cre recombinase from the Pax6-Le regulatory sequences in the Le-Cre transgene depletes cofactors required for endogenous Pax6 gene expression. Our observation that eye abnormalities can occur in hemizygous Le-Cre(Tg/-); Pax6(+/+) mice, in the absence of a floxed allele, demonstrates the importance of including all the relevant genetic controls in Cre-loxP experiments.

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