Send to

Choose Destination
eNeuro. 2019 Aug 1. pii: ENEURO.0448-18.2019. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0448-18.2019. [Epub ahead of print]

Tmem119-EGFP and Tmem119-CreERT2 transgenic mice for labeling and manipulating microglia.

Kaiser T1,2, Feng G3,2,4.

Author information

McGovern Institute for Brain Research.
Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.
McGovern Institute for Brain Research
Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA.


Microglia are specialized brain-resident macrophages with important functions in health and disease. To improve our understanding of these cells, the research community needs genetic tools to identify and control them in a manner that distinguishes them from closely related cell-types. We have targeted the recently discovered microglia-specific Tmem119 gene to generate knock-in mice expressing EGFP (JAX#031823) or CreERT2 (JAX#031820) for the identification and manipulation of microglia, respectively. Genetic characterization of the locus and qPCR-based analysis demonstrate correct positioning of the transgenes and intact expression of endogenous Tmem119 in the knock-in mouse models. Immunofluorescence analysis further shows that parenchymal microglia, but not other brain macrophages, are completely and faithfully labeled in the EGFP-line at different time points of development. Flow cytometry indicates highly selective expression of EGFP in CD11b+CD45lo microglia. Similarly, immunofluorescence and flow cytometry analyses using a Cre-dependent reporter mouse line demonstrate activity of CreERT2 primarily in microglia upon tamoxifen administration with the caveat of activity in leptomeningeal cells. Finally, flow cytometric analyses reveal absence of EGFP expression and minimal activity of CreERT2 in blood monocytes of the Tmem119-EGFP and Tmem119-CreERT2 lines, respectively. These new transgenic lines extend the microglia toolbox by providing the currently most specific genetic labeling and control over these cells in the myeloid compartment of mice.Significance statement Tools that specifically label and manipulate only microglia are currently unavailable, but are critically needed to further our understanding of this cell type. Complementing and significantly extending recently introduced microglia-specific immunostaining methods that have quickly become a new standard in the field, we generated two mouse lines that label and control gene expression in microglia with high specificity and made them publicly available. Using these readily accessible mice, the research community will be able to study microglia biology with improved specificity.


CreERT2; EGFP; Macrophage; Microglia; Tmem119; Transgenic

Free full text

Conflict of interest statement

Authors report no conflict of interest.

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire
Loading ...
Support Center