In recent years, the Cre integrase from bacteriophage P1 has become an essential tool for conditional gene activation and/or inactivation in mouse. In an earlier report, we described a fusion protein between Cre and a mutated form of the ligand binding domain of the estrogen receptor (Cre-ER) that renders Cre activity tamoxifen (TM) inducible, allowing for conditional modification of gene activity in the mammalian neural tube in utero. In the current work, we have generated a transgenic mouse line in which Cre-ER is ubiquitously expressed to permit temporally regulated Cre-mediated recombination in diverse tissues of the mouse at embryonic and adult stages. We demonstrate that a single, intraperitoneal injection of TM into a pregnant mouse at 8.5 days postcoitum leads to detectable recombination in the developing embryo within 6 h of injection and efficient recombination of a reporter gene in derivatives of all three germ layers within 24 h of injection. In addition, by varying the dose of TM injected, the percentage of cells undergoing a recombination event in the embryo can be controlled. Dose-dependent excision induced by TM was also possible in diverse tissues in the adult mouse, including the central nervous system, and in cultured cells derived from the transgenic mouse line. This inducible Cre system will be a broadly useful tool to modulate gene activity in mouse embryos, adults, and culture systems where temporal control is an important consideration.
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