Investigations of the mechanisms involved in appropriate, developmentally regulated tissue-specific gene transcription have laid the foundations for transgenic and gene-therapy technologies directing specific induction or ablation of genes of interest in a tissue-restricted manner. This technology has further evolved to allow for temporal control of gene expression and ablation. Genes can now be switched on and off or be ablated by administering exogenous compounds. These technologies are based on the development of ligand-inducible transcription factors or recombinases that regulate gene expression or ablation by the administration of specific ligands and should lead to animal models that are better suited for investigating the molecular basis of human disease. This review describes the evolution, components and applications of systems that are currently being employed in transgenic and mutant-mouse technology for the conditional regulation of gene expression and ablation.