Ligand-dependent site-specific recombinases are powerful tools to engineer the mouse genome in specific somatic cell types at selected times during pre- and postnatal development. Current efforts are primarily directed towards increasing the efficiency of this recombination system in mice. We have generated transgenic mouse lines expressing a tamoxifen-activated Cre recombinase, CreER(T2), under the control of the smooth muscle-specific SM22 promoter. Both a randomly integrated transgene [SM-CreER(T2)(tg)] and a transgene that has been "knocked in" into the endogenous SM22 locus [SM-CreER(T2)(ki)] were expressed in smooth muscle-containing tissues. The level of CreER(T2) expression and tamoxifen-induced recombination was lower in SM-CreER(T2)(tg) mice compared with SM-CreER(T2)(ki) mice. Whereas no recombinase activity could be detected in vehicle-treated SM-CreER(T2)(ki) mice, administration of tamoxifen induced the excision of a loxP-flanked reporter transgene in up to 100% of smooth muscle cells. The recombined genome persisted for at least four months after tamoxifen treatment. SM-CreER(T2)(ki) transgenic mice should be useful to study the effects of various somatic mutations in smooth muscle.
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