A chemical mutagenesis screen to identify modifier genes that interact with growth hormone and TGF-beta signaling pathways

Bone. 2008 Feb;42(2):388-95. doi: 10.1016/j.bone.2007.10.014. Epub 2007 Oct 28.


We describe a phenotype-driven mutagenesis screen in which mice carrying a targeted mutation are bred with ENU-treated males in order to provide a sensitized system for detecting dominant modifier mutations. The presence of initial mutation renders the screening system more responsive to subtle changes in modifier genes that would not be penetrant in an otherwise wild type background. We utilized two mutant mouse models: 1) mice carrying a mutation in growth hormone releasing hormone receptor (Ghrhr) (denoted 'lit' allele, Ghrhr(lit)), which results in GH deficiency; and 2) mice lacking Smad2 gene, a signal transducer for TGF-beta, an important bone growth factor. The Smad2(-/-) mice are lethal and Ghrhr(lit/lit) mice are dwarf, but both Smad2(+/-) and Ghrhr(lit/)(+) mice exhibit normal growth. We injected 6-7 weeks old C57BL/6J male mice with ENU (100 mg/kg dose) and bred them with Ghrhr(lit/)(+) and Smad2(+/-) mice. The F1 mice with Ghrhr(lit/)(+) or Smad2(+/-) genotype were screened for growth and skeletal phenotypes. An outlier was identified as >3 SD units different from wild type control (n=20-30). We screened about 100 F1 mice with Ghrhr(lit/)(+) and Smad2(+/-) genotypes and identified nine outliers. A backcross established heritability of three mutant lines in multiple generations. Among the phenotypic deviants, we have identified a mutant mouse with 30-40% reduced bone size. The magnitude of the bone size phenotype was amplified by the presence of one copy of the disrupted Ghrhr gene as determined by the 2-way ANOVA (p<0.02 for interaction). Thus, a new mouse model has been established to identify a gene that interacts with GH signaling to regulate bone size. In addition, the sensitized screen also demonstrated higher recovery of skeletal phenotypes as compared to that obtained in the classical ENU screen in wild type mice. The discovery of mutants in a selected pathway will provide a valuable tool to not only to discover novel genes involved in a particular process but will also prove useful for the elucidation of the biology of that process.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical*
  • Female
  • Growth Hormone / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Mutagenesis / drug effects*
  • Phenotype
  • Signal Transduction / genetics*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism*


  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Growth Hormone