A cre-inducible DUX4 transgenic mouse model for investigating facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy

PLoS One. 2018 Feb 7;13(2):e0192657. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0192657. eCollection 2018.


The Double homeobox 4 (DUX4) gene is an important regulator of early human development and its aberrant expression is causal for facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD). The DUX4-full length (DUX4-fl) mRNA splice isoform encodes a transcriptional activator; however, DUX4 and its unique DNA binding preferences are specific to old-world primates. Regardless, the somatic cytotoxicity caused by DUX4 expression is conserved when expressed in cells and animals ranging from fly to mouse. Thus, viable animal models based on DUX4-fl expression have been difficult to generate due in large part to overt developmental toxicity of low DUX4-fl expression from leaky transgenes. We have overcome this obstacle and here we report the generation and initial characterization of a line of conditional floxed DUX4-fl transgenic mice, FLExDUX4, that is viable and fertile. In the absence of cre, these mice express a very low level of DUX4-fl mRNA from the transgene, resulting in mild phenotypes. However, when crossed with appropriate cre-driver lines of mice, the double transgenic offspring readily express DUX4-fl mRNA, protein, and target genes with the spatiotemporal pattern of nuclear cre expression dictated by the chosen system. When cre is expressed from the ACTA1 skeletal muscle-specific promoter, the double transgenic animals exhibit a developmental myopathy. When crossed with tamoxifen-inducible cre lines, DUX4-mediated pathology can be induced in adult animals. Thus, the appearance and progression of pathology can be controlled to provide readily screenable phenotypes useful for assessing therapeutic approaches targeting DUX4-fl mRNA and protein. Overall, the FLExDUX4 line of mice is quite versatile and will allow new investigations into mechanisms of DUX4-mediated pathophysiology as well as much-needed pre-clinical testing of DUX4-targeted FSHD interventions in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics*
  • Integrases / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Facioscapulohumeral / genetics*
  • Phenotype
  • RNA Splicing
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Dux4 protein, mouse
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Cre recombinase
  • Integrases