Mammalian palate development is a multistep process, involving initial bilateral downward outgrowth of the palatal shelves from the oral side of the maxillary processes, followed by stage-specific palatal shelf elevation to the horizontal position above the developing tongue and subsequent fusion of the bilateral palatal shelves at the midline to form the intact roof of the oral cavity. While mutations in many genes have been associated with cleft palate pathogenesis, the molecular mechanisms regulating palatal shelf growth, patterning, and elevation are not well understood. Genetic studies of the molecular mechanisms controlling palate development in mutant mouse models are often complicated by early embryonic lethality or gross craniofacial malformation. We report here the development of a mouse strain for tissue-specific analysis of gene function in palate development. We inserted an IresCre bicistronic expression cassette into the 3' untranslated region of the mouse Osr2 gene through gene targeting. We show, upon crossing to the R26R reporter mice, that Cre expression from the Osr2(IresCre) knockin allele activated beta-galactosidase expression specifically throughout the developing palatal mesenchyme from the onset of palatal shelf outgrowth. In addition, the Osr2(IresCre) mice display exclusive Cre-mediated recombination in the glomeruli tissues derived from the metanephric mesenchyme and complete absence of Cre activity in other epithelial and mesenchymal tissues in the developing metanephric kidney. These data indicate that the Osr2(IresCre) knockin mice provide a unique tool for tissue-specific studies of the molecular mechanisms regulating palate and kidney development.
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