Genetically encoded effectors are important tools for probing cellular function in living animals, but improved methods for directing their expression to specific cell types are required. Here, we introduce a simple, versatile method for achieving cell-type-specific expression of transgenes that leverages the untapped potential of "coding introns" (i.e., introns between coding exons). Our method couples the expression of a transgene to that of a native gene expressed in the cells of interest using intronically inserted "plug-and-play" cassettes (called "Trojan exons") that carry a splice acceptor site followed by the coding sequences of T2A peptide and an effector transgene. We demonstrate the efficacy of this approach in Drosophila using lines containing suitable MiMIC (Minos-mediated integration cassette) transposons and a palette of Trojan exons capable of expressing a range of commonly used transcription factors. We also introduce an exchangeable, MiMIC-like Trojan exon construct that can be targeted to coding introns using the Crispr/Cas system.
Copyright © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.