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Mutagenesis. 1996 Jan;11(1):111-8.

Evaluation of a plasmid-based transgenic mouse model for detecting in vivo mutations.

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Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.


To study in vivo somatic mutations a C57BL/6 transgenic mouse model was constructed harboring multiple chromosomally integrated copies of the plasmid pUR288, which carried the lacZ reporter gene as the mutational target. We previously demonstrated that lacZ-containing plasmids could be rescued from their integrated state efficient enough to detect mutations in lacZ by positive selection. The smaller size of the plasmid vector, as compared with our earlier transgenic mouse model based on bacteriophage lambda vectors, should offer considerable advantages in terms of rescue efficiency and sensitivity to large size alterations in the lacZ gene. To evaluate the plasmid-based mouse model for its suitability to detect in vivo mutations, we determined mutant frequencies in different organs of untreated and ethyl nitrosourea (ENU)-treated animals using a new, improved protocol. The rescue efficiencies obtained were as high as 200,000/micrograms genomic DNA; millions of transformants could be obtained in one single experiment. The average spontaneous mutant frequency in four different organs of 4- to 8-week-old mice ranged from 4.41 to 6.82 x 10(-5), compared with a mutant frequency of the same plasmid grown in Escherichia coli of approximately 1 x 10(-5) or less. Single treatments with 100 and 250 mg ENU/kg body wt resulted in a 7- and 14-fold increase, respectively, in spleen mutant frequency at 14 days after i.p. administration of the alkylating agent. Restriction enzyme analysis showed that a considerable portion of spontaneous mutants were size changes varying from approximately 100 to 3000 bp. Some mutant plasmids contained mouse genomic sequences, which is indicative of large genetic rearrangement events involving the 3' flanking regions of the transgene cluster. Among the ENU-induced mutants, size changes comprised only a minor fraction of the total, which is in keeping with the known ENU mutation spectra in vitro and in vivo. The high rescue efficiency of this plasmid-based model, in combination with its sensitivity to a broad spectrum of mutations, including large deletions, makes it very suitable as a general in vivo mutagenicity test system.

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