ENU mutagenesis, a way forward to understand gene function

Annu Rev Genomics Hum Genet. 2008;9:49-69. doi: 10.1146/annurev.genom.9.081307.164224.


Arguably, the main challenge for contemporary genetics is to understand the function of every gene in a mammalian genome. The mouse has emerged as a model for this task because its genome can be manipulated in a number of ways to study gene function or mimic disease states. Two complementary genetic approaches can be used to generate mouse models. A reverse genetics or gene-driven approach (gene to phenotype) starts from a known gene and manipulates the genome to create genetically modified mice, such as knockouts. Alternatively, a forward genetics or phenotype-driven approach (phenotype to gene) involves screening mice for mutant phenotypes without previous knowledge of the genetic basis of the mutation. N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea (ENU) mutagenesis has been widely used for both approaches to generate mouse mutants. Here we review progress in ENU mutagenesis screening, with an emphasis on creating mouse models for human disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breeding / methods
  • DNA / genetics
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Ethylnitrosourea / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Genes, Recessive
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Infections / genetics
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Models, Animal
  • Models, Genetic
  • Mutagenesis*
  • Mutagens / toxicity
  • Mutation
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / genetics
  • Phenotype


  • Mutagens
  • DNA
  • Ethylnitrosourea