Background: The neurocircuits that process somatic sensory information in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord are still poorly understood, with one reason being the lack of Cre lines for genetically marking or manipulating selective subpopulations of dorsal horn neurons. Here we describe Tac2-Cre mice that were generated to express the Cre recombinase gene from the Tac2 locus. Tachykinin 2 (Tac2) encodes a neurotransmitter, neurokinin B (NKB).
Results: By crossing Tac2-Cre mice with ROSA26-tdTomato reporter mice, we directly visualized Tac2 lineage neurons in the dorsal root ganglia, the dorsal horn of the spinal cord, and many parts of the brain including the olfactory bulb, cerebral cortex, amygdala, hippocampus, habenula, hypothalamus, and cerebellum. This Tac2-Cre allele itself was a null allele for the Tac2 gene. Behavioral analyses showed that Tac2 homozygous null mice responded normally to a series of algogenic (pain-inducing) and pruritic (itch-inducing) stimuli.
Conclusions: Tac2-Cre mice are a useful tool to mark specific subsets of neurons in the sensory ganglia, the dorsal spinal cord, and the brain. These mice can also be used for future genetic manipulations to study the functions of Tac2-expressing neurons or the functions of genes expressed in these neurons.