Illegitimate Cre-dependent chromosome rearrangements in transgenic mouse spermatids

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Dec 5;97(25):13702-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.240471297.


The bacteriophage P1 Cre/loxP system has become a powerful tool for in vivo manipulation of the genomes of transgenic mice. Although in vitro studies have shown that Cre can catalyze recombination between cryptic "pseudo-loxP" sites in mammalian genomes, to date there have been no reports of loxP-site infidelity in transgenic animals. We produced lines of transgenic mice that use the mouse Protamine 1 (Prm1) gene promoter to express Cre recombinase in postmeiotic spermatids. All male founders and all Cre-bearing male descendents of female founders were sterile; females were unaffected. Sperm counts, sperm motility, and sperm morphology were normal, as was the mating behavior of the transgenic males and the production of two-celled embryos after mating. Mice that expressed similar levels of a derivative transgene that carries an inactive Cre exhibited normal male fertility. Analyses of embryos from matings between sterile Cre-expressing males and wild-type females indicated that Cre-catalyzed chromosome rearrangements in the spermatids that lead to abortive pregnancies with 100% penetrance. Similar Cre-mediated, but loxP-independent, genomic alterations may also occur in somatic tissues that express Cre, but, because of the greater difficulty of assessing deleterious effects of somatic mutations, these may go undetected. This study indicates that, following the use of the Cre/loxP site-specific recombination systems in vivo, it is prudent to eliminate or inactivate the Cre recombinase gene as rapidly as possible.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • Chromosomes / ultrastructure*
  • Female
  • Integrases / metabolism*
  • Karyotyping
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Phenotype
  • Spermatids / ultrastructure*
  • Viral Proteins*


  • Chromatin
  • Viral Proteins
  • Cre recombinase
  • Integrases