Creating transgenic shRNA mice by recombinase-mediated cassette exchange

Cold Spring Harb Protoc. 2013 Sep 1;2013(9):835-42. doi: 10.1101/pdb.prot077057.


RNA interference (RNAi) enables sequence-specific, experimentally induced silencing of virtually any gene by tapping into innate regulatory mechanisms that are conserved among most eukaryotes. The principles that enable transgenic RNAi in cell lines can also be used to create transgenic animals, which express short-hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) in a regulated or tissue-specific fashion. However, RNAi in transgenic animals is somewhat more challenging than RNAi in cultured cells. The activities of promoters that are commonly used for shRNA expression in cell culture can vary enormously in different tissues, and founder lines also typically vary in transgene expression due to the effects of their single integration sites. There are many ways to produce mice carrying shRNA transgenes and the method described here uses recombinase-mediated cassette exchange (RMCE). RMCE permits insertion of the shRNA transgene into a well-characterized locus that gives reproducible and predictable expression in each founder and enhances the probability of potent expression in many cell types. This procedure is more involved and complex than simple pronuclear injection, but if even a few shRNA mice are envisioned, for example, to probe the functions of several genes, the effort of setting up the processes outlined below are well worthwhile. Note that when creating a transgenic mouse, one should take care to use the most potent shRNA possible. As a rule of thumb, the sequence chosen should provide >90% knockdown when introduced into cultured cells at single copy (e.g., on retroviral infection at a multiplicity of ≤0.3).

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Silencing*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Molecular Biology / methods*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics*
  • Recombinases / metabolism
  • Recombination, Genetic*


  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Recombinases