Astrocyte is the most abundant cell type in the central nervous system and its importance has been increasingly recognized in the brain pathophysiology. To study in vivo function of astrocyte, astrocyte-specific gene-targeting is regarded as a powerful approach. Especially, hGFAP-CreERT2, which expresses tamoxifen-inducible Cre recombinase under the human GFAP promoter, has been developed and characterized from several research groups. However, one of these mouse lines, [Tg(GFAP-Cre/ERT2)13Kdmc] from Ken McCarthy group has not been quantitatively analyzed, despite its frequent use. Here, we performed comprehensive characterization of this mouse line with quantitative analysis. By crossing this mouse line with Ai14 (RCL-tdTomato), a very sensitive Cre reporter mouse line, we visualized the Cre-expressing cells in various brain regions. For quantitative analysis, we immunostained S100β as an astrocytic marker and NeuN, tyrosine hydroxylase or calbindin as a neuronal marker in different brain regions. We calculated 'astrocyte specificity' as the proportion of co-labelled S100β and tdTomato positive cells in the total number of tdTomato positive cells and the 'astrocyte coverage' as the proportion of co-labelled S100β and tdTomato positive cells in the total number of S100β positive cells. Interestingly, we found varying degree of astrocyte specificity and coverage in each brain region. In cortex, hypothalamus, substantia nigra pars compacta and cerebellar Purkinje layer, we observed high astrocyte specificity (over 89%) and relatively high astrocyte coverage (over 70%). In striatum, hippocampal CA1 layer, dentate gyrus and cerebellar granule layer, we observed high astrocyte specificity (over 80%), but relative low astrocyte coverage (50-60%). However, thalamus and amygdala showed low astrocyte specificity (about 65%) and significant neuron specificity (over 30%). This hGFAP-CreERT2 mouse line can be useful for genetic modulations of target gene either in gain-of-function or loss-of-function studies in the brain regions with high astrocyte specificity and coverage. However, the use of this mouse line should be restricted to gain-of-function studies in the brain regions with high astrocyte specificity but low coverage. In conclusion, hGFAP-CreERT2 mouse line could be a powerful tool for gene-targeting of astrocytes in cortex, striatum, hippocampus, hypothalamus, substantia nigra pars compacta and cerebellum, but not in thalamus and amygdala.
Keywords: Astrocytes; Cre recombinase; Glial fibrillary astrocytic protein; Tamoxfien.