Purpose: To develop a system for inducible photoreceptor-specific gene expression in transgenic mice. The tetracycline regulatory system was chosen because it possesses the useful property of direct control of gene expression through use of an exogenous agent, doxycycline, a tetracycline derivative.
Methods: Transgenic mice were generated that carried the reverse tetracycline-controlled transactivator under the control of the photoreceptor-specific promoters for rhodopsin and interphotoreceptor retinoid-binding protein. These animals were crossed with transgenic mice carrying the lacZ reporter gene under control of the tetracycline operator cassette, creating doubly transgenic mice. Doxycycline was administered to induce expression of the reporter gene. Reporter assays were then performed to evaluate lacZ expression.
Results: Doxycycline administration led to photoreceptor-specific expression of the lacZ reporter gene in the doubly transgenic mice. X-gal staining was restricted to photoreceptor inner segments and synaptic termini. Induction could be achieved by addition of the drug to the animals' drinking water or by intravitreal injection. Induction was noted within 24 hours of doxcycline administration. Because of variability among animals, there was an approximate correlation, but not a clean dose-response curve relating drug dose to level of reporter expression.
Conclusions: A transgenic system for inducible photoreceptor-specific gene expression has been developed. This system is currently being exploited to study the effects of regulated expression of genes of biological interest.