Engineering of a mouse for the in vivo profiling of estrogen receptor activity

Mol Endocrinol. 2001 Jul;15(7):1104-13. doi: 10.1210/mend.15.7.0658.


In addition to their well known control of reproductive functions, estrogens modulate important physiological processes. The identification of compounds with tissue-selective activity will lead to new drugs mimicking the beneficial effects of estrogen on the prevention of osteoporosis and cardiovascular or neurodegenerative diseases, while avoiding its detrimental proliferative effects. As an innovative model for the in vivo identification of new selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs), we engineered a mouse genome to express a luciferase reporter gene ubiquitously. The constructs for transgenesis consist of the reporter gene driven by a dimerized estrogen-responsive element (ERE) and a minimal promoter. Insulator sequences, either matrix attachment region (MAR) or beta-globin hypersensitive site 4 (HS4), flank the construct to achieve a generalized, hormoneresponsive luciferase expression. In the mouse we generated, the reporter expression is detectable in all 26 tissues examined, but is induced by 17beta-estradiol (E2) only in 15 of them, all expressing estrogen receptors (ERs). Immunohistochemical studies show that in the mouse uterus, luciferase and ERs colocalize. In primary cultures of bone marrow cells explanted from the transgenic mice and in vivo, luciferase activity accumulates with increasing E(2) concentration. E2 activity is blocked by the ER full antagonist ICI 182,780. Tamoxifen shows partial agonist activity in liver and bone when administered to the animals. In the mouse system here illustrated, by biochemical, immunohistochemical, and pharmacological criteria, luciferase content reflects ER transcriptional activity and thus represents a novel system for the study of ER dynamics during physiological fluctuations of estrogen and for the identification of SERMs or endocrine disruptors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Marrow Cells / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms
  • Dimerization
  • Estradiol / administration & dosage
  • Estradiol / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Genes, Reporter / genetics
  • Genetic Engineering*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Luciferases / genetics
  • Luciferases / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred DBA
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Ovariectomy
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Receptors, Estrogen / genetics*
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Response Elements / genetics
  • Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators / analysis
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects
  • Transfection
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Uterus / metabolism


  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators
  • Estradiol
  • Luciferases