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PLoS One. 2018 Jun 28;13(6):e0199785. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0199785. eCollection 2018.

Uncovering the fine print of the CreERT2-LoxP system while generating a conditional knockout mouse model of Ssrp1 gene.

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Department of Cell Stress Biology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, New York, United States of America.
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, New York, United States of America.


FAcilitates Chromatin Transcription (FACT) is a complex of SSRP1 and SPT16 that is involved in chromatin remodeling during transcription, replication, and DNA repair. FACT has been mostly studied in cell-free or single cell model systems because general FACT knockout (KO) is embryonically lethal (E3.5). FACT levels are limited to the early stages of development and stem cell niches of adult tissues. FACT is upregulated in poorly differentiated aggressive tumors. Importantly, FACT inhibition (RNAi) is lethal for tumors but not normal cells, making FACT a lucrative target for anticancer therapy. To develop a better understanding of FACT function in the context of the mammalian organism under normal physiological conditions and in disease, we aimed to generate a conditional FACT KO mouse model. Because SPT16 stability is dependent on the SSRP1-SPT16 association and the presence of SSRP1 mRNA, we targeted the Ssrp1 gene using a CreERT2- LoxP approach to generate the FACT KO model. Here, we highlight the limitations of the CreERT2-LoxP (Rosa26) system that we encountered during the generation of this model. In vitro studies showed an inefficient excision rate of ectopically expressed CreERT2 (retroviral CreERT2) in fibroblasts with homozygous floxed Ssrp1. In vitro and in vivo studies showed that the excision efficiency could only be increased with germline expression of two alleles of Rosa26CreERT2. The expression of one germline Rosa26CreERT2 allele led to the incomplete excision of Ssrp1. The limited efficiency of the CreERT2-LoxP system may be sufficient for studies involving the deletion of genes that interfere with cell growth or viability due to the positive selection of the phenotype. However, it may not be sufficient for studies that involve the deletion of genes supporting growth, or those crucial for development. Although CreERT2-LoxP is broadly used, it has limitations that have not been widely discussed. This paper aims to encourage such discussions.

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