To delete genes specifically from mammary tissue using the Cre-lox system, we have established transgenic mice expressing Cre recombinase under control of the WAP gene promoter and the MMTV LTR. Cre activity in these mice was evaluated by three criteria. First, the tissue distribution of Cre mRNA was analyzed. Second, an adenovirus carrying a reporter gene was used to determine expression at the level of single cells. Third, tissue specificity of Cre activity was determined in a mouse strain carrying a reporter gene. In adult MMTV-Cre mice expression of the transgene was confined to striated ductal cells of the salivary gland and mammary epithelial cells in virgin and lactating mice. Expression of WAP-Cre was only detected in alveolar epithelial cells of mammary tissue during lactation. Analysis of transgenic mice carrying both the MMTV-Cre and the reporter transgenes revealed recombination in every tissue. In contrast, recombination mediated by Cre under control of the WAP gene promoter was largely restricted to the mammary gland but occasionally observed in the brain. These results show that transgenic mice with WAP-Cre but not MMTV-Cre can be used as a powerful tool to study gene function in development and tumorigenesis in the mammary gland.
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