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Oncogene. 2004 Feb 26;23(8):1558-65.

'Designer' tumors in mice.

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Department of Genetics and Development, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA.


We have developed and tested successfully a general method based on Cre-mediated recombination that can be used for ubiquitous or tissue-specific expression of protein products, including tumor-inducing oncoproteins. Depending on the specificity of a chosen promoter driving cre expression, tumors develop by design in bitransgenic mouse progeny derived by crossing Cre-producing mice with partners carrying a dormant oncogenic transgene (targeted into the 3' noncoding region of the cytoplasmic beta-actin locus) that becomes functional after excision of a 'floxed' DNA segment. To provide proof-of-principle, we have used as models transgenes encoding the polyomavirus middle T antigen (PVMT) and the T antigens of the SV40 early region (SVER). Cre-dependent activation of widespread SVER expression resulted in hyperplasias or invasive tumors affecting particular visceral smooth muscles, whereas Cre-dependent, mammary gland-specific expression of PVMT-induced adenocarcinomas, according to plan. Unexpectedly, we also encountered spontaneous (Cre-independent) oncogene expression occurring as a rare event, which simulates the initiation of sporadic tumors and leads to PVMT-induced hemangiomas and mammary carcinomas or SVER-induced disseminated sarcomas, thus, revealing particular tissue susceptibilities to the actions of these oncoproteins.

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