Transgenic mouse models mediating conditional temporal and spatial regulation of gene expression to the respiratory epithelium were developed utilizing the reverse tetracycline transactivator (rtTA) expressed under the control of SP-C and CCSP promoters. Luciferase activity was detected in the lungs of fetal and adult double transgenic mice but was not detected in other tissues or in single transgenic mice. In adult mice, maximal luciferase activity was detected 16 h after the administration of doxycycline in the drinking water, or 2 h after the injection of doxycycline. Activation of the transgene was observed after the administration of doxycycline in food pellets. After prolonged exposure to doxycycline, luciferase activity decreased slowly following removal of doxycycline, suggesting the importance of tissue pools which maintained expression of the transgene. In SP-C-rtTA mice, exposure of the pregnant dam to doxycycline induced luciferase activity in fetal lung tissue as early as E10.5. Luciferase activity was maintained in the lung tissue of pups during the period of lactation when the mother received doxycycline in the drinking water. In the CCSP-rtTA mice, luciferase was not detected in the absence of doxycycline. In the SP-C-rtTA mice, luciferase activity was detected in the absence of doxycycline but was enhanced approximately 10-fold by administration of drugs. The SP-C-rtTA and CCSP-rtTA activator mice control the expression of transgenes in the developing and mature respiratory epithelium, and will be useful for the study of gene function in the lung.