The generation and analysis of germline mutations in the mouse is one of the cornerstones of modern biological research. The chemical supermutagen N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea (ENU) is the most potent known mouse mutagen and can be used to generate point mutations throughout the mouse genome. The progeny of ENU-mutagenized males can be screened for autosomal dominant phenotypes, or they can be used to generate multigeneration pedigrees to screen for autosomal recessive traits. The introduction of balancer chromosomes into the breeding scheme can allow for the selective capture of mutations in a specific chromosomal region. More recent work has demonstrated that the use of animals that already have a mutation of interest can lead to the successful isolation of additional mutations that modify the original mutant phenotype. Further, modern molecular techniques ensure that mutations can be readily identified. We describe here the procedures for mutagenizing male mice with ENU and explain the various types of screens that can be performed for different kinds of induced mutations. The currently published research on ENU mutagenesis in the mouse has only scratched the surface of what is possible with this powerful technique, and further work is certain to deepen our knowledge of the role of the individual components of the mouse genome and the myriad relationships between them.
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