Humanization of the Blood-Brain Barrier Transporter ABCB1 in Mice Disrupts Genomic Locus - Lessons from Three Unsuccessful Approaches

Eur J Microbiol Immunol (Bp). 2018 Jul 6;8(3):78-86. doi: 10.1556/1886.2018.00008. eCollection 2018 Sep 28.


ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters are of major importance for the restricted access of toxins and drugs to the human body. At the body's barrier tissues like the blood-brain barrier, these transporters are highly represented. Especially, ABCB1 (P-glycoprotein) has been a priority target of pharmaceutical research, for instance, to aid chemotherapy of cancers, therapy resistant epilepsy, and lately even neurodegenerative diseases. To improve translational research, the humanization of mouse genes has become a popular tool although, like recently seen for Abcb1, not all approaches were successful. Here, we report the characterization of another unsuccessful commercially available ABCB1 humanized mouse strain. In vivo assessment of transporter activity using positron emission tomography imaging revealed a severe reduction of ABCB1 function in the brain of these mice. Analyses of brain mRNA and protein expression showed that the murine Abcb1a gene is still expressed in homozygous humanized animals while expression of the human gene is minimal. Promoter region analyses underpinned that the introduced human gene might dysregulate normal expression and provided insights into the regulation of both transcription and translation of Abcb1a. We conclude that insertion of the human coding DNA sequence (CDS) into exon 3 instead of exon 2 most probably represents a more promising strategy for Abcb1a humanization.

Keywords: ABC transporter; ABCB1; P-gp; PET imaging; humanization; mouse models.