Conditional mutations are essential for determining the stage- and tissue-specific functions of genes. Here we achieve conditional mutagenesis in zebrafish using FT1, a gene-trap cassette that can be stably inverted by both Cre and Flp recombinases. We demonstrate that intronic insertions in the gene-trapping orientation severely disrupt the expression of the host gene, whereas intronic insertions in the neutral orientation do not significantly affect host gene expression. Cre- and Flp-mediated recombination switches the orientation of the gene-trap cassette, permitting conditional rescue in one orientation and conditional knockout in the other. To illustrate the utility of this system we analyzed the functional consequence of intronic FT1 insertion in supv3l1, a gene encoding a mitochondrial RNA helicase. Global supv311 mutants have impaired mitochondrial function, embryonic lethality, and agenesis of the liver. Conditional rescue of supv311 expression in hepatocytes specifically corrected the liver defects. To test whether the liver function of supv311 is required for viability we used Flp-mediated recombination in the germline to generate a neutral allele at the locus. Subsequently, tissue-specific expression of Cre conditionally inactivated the targeted locus. Hepatocyte-specific inactivation of supv311 caused liver degeneration, growth retardation, and juvenile lethality, a phenotype that was less severe than the global disruption of supv311. Thus, supv311 is required in multiple tissues for organismal viability. Our mutagenesis approach is very efficient and could be used to generate conditional alleles throughout the zebrafish genome. Furthermore, because FT1 is based on the promiscuous Tol2 transposon, it should be applicable to many organisms.
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