A transgenic red fluorescent protein-expressing nude mouse for color-coded imaging of the tumor microenvironment

J Cell Biochem. 2009 Feb 1;106(2):279-84. doi: 10.1002/jcb.21999.


The tumor microenvironment (TME) is critical for tumor growth and progression. We have previously developed color-coded imaging of the TME using a green fluorescent protein (GFP) transgenic nude mouse as a host. However, most donor sources of cell types appropriate for study in the TME are from mice expressing GFP. Therefore, a nude mouse expressing red fluorescent protein (RFP) would be an appropriate host for transplantation of GFP-expressing stromal cells as well as double-labeled cancer cells expressing GFP in the nucleus and RFP in the cytoplasm, thereby creating a three-color imaging model of the TME. The RFP nude mouse was obtained by crossing non-transgenic nude mice with the transgenic C57/B6 mouse in which the beta-actin promoter drives RFP (DsRed2) expression in essentially all tissues. In crosses between nu/nu RFP male mice and nu/+ RFP female mice, the embryos fluoresced red. Approximately 50% of the offspring of these mice were RFP nude mice. In the RFP nude mouse, the organs all brightly expressed RFP, including the heart, lungs, spleen, pancreas, esophagus, stomach, duodenum, the male and female reproductive systems; brain and spinal cord; and the circulatory system, including the heart, and major arteries and veins. The skinned skeleton highly expressed RFP. The bone marrow and spleen cells were also RFP positive. GFP-expressing human cancer cell lines, including HCT-116-GFP colon cancer and MDA-MB-435-GFP breast cancer were orthotopically transplanted to the transgenic RFP nude mice. These human tumors grew extensively in the transgenic RFP nude mouse. Dual-color fluorescence imaging enabled visualization of human tumor-host interaction. The RFP nude mouse model should greatly expand our knowledge of the TME.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Color
  • Female
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Protein Biosynthesis


  • Luminescent Proteins
  • red fluorescent protein