Sox9 expression defines cell progenitors in a variety of tissues during mouse embryogenesis. To establish a genetic tool for cell-lineage tracing and gene-function analysis, we generated mice in which the CreERT2 gene was targeted to the endogenous mouse Sox9 locus. In Sox9(CreERT2/+) ;R26R embryos, tamoxifen activated Cre recombinase exclusively in Sox9-expressing tissues. To determine the suitability of this mouse line for developmental stage-specific gene recombination, we investigated the cellular origins of the cruciate ligaments of the knee joint and the limb tendons, in which precursor cells have not been defined. The cells in these tissues were labeled after tamoxifen treatment before or at the stage of chondrogenic mesenchymal condensation, indicating that ligament and tendon cells originated from Sox9-expressing cells and that cell fate determination occurred at mesenchymal condensation. This mouse line is a valuable tool for the temporal genetic tracing of the progeny of, and inducible gene modification in Sox9-expressing cells.
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