TALEN-mediated generation of Nkx3.1 knockout rat model

Prostate. 2021 Feb;81(3):182-193. doi: 10.1002/pros.24095. Epub 2020 Dec 28.


Background: Recent developments in gene editing, using transcriptional activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs), have greatly helped the generation of genetically engineered animal models. The NK3 homeobox 1 (NKX3.1) protein plays important roles in prostate development and protein production, and functions as a tumor suppressor. Recently, NKX3.1 was shown to be associated with breast cancer in humans.

Methods: Our aim was to create a new rat model to elucidate the functions of NKX3.1. To that end, we generated Nkx3.1 knockout rats using TALENs and analyzed their phenotype. TALEN-mediated Nkx3.1 knockout was confirmed by T7 endonuclease I (T7E1) assay and DNA sequencing. Prostate weight and fertility were evaluated in the knockout rats, besides determining the proportion of epithelial cells and messenger RNA (mRNA) expression of genes associated with carcinogenesis. Breast tumors were examined by histopathology.

Results: Results suggested Nkx3.1 knockout rats have reduced fertility, decreased prostate weights, and increased epithelial cell layers. The mRNA expression of genes related to prostate carcinogenesis, namely Ar, Akt, and Pi3k, also increased. Moreover, the Nkx3.1 knockout rats often developed malignant breast tumors.

Conclusions: We, therefore, successfully created the first Nkx3.1 knockout rat model, using TALEN-mediated gene targeting, and used it to identify defects associated with Nkx3.1 deficiency, not previously observed in mice. Loss of Nkx3.1 in rats led to lower reproductive capacity, and decreased prostate weights, apart from the risk of developing breast cancer. We, thus, proposed Nkx3.1 knockout rats as reliable models for studying the role of NKX3.1 in decreased prostate weights, fertility, and breast cancer, as well as in prostate cancer.

Keywords: Nkx3.1; TALEN; breast cancer; fertility; knockout rat; prostate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Female
  • Fertility
  • Gene Knockout Techniques / methods*
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / physiology*
  • Male
  • Models, Animal
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Transcription Activator-Like Effector Nucleases / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / physiology*


  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • NKX3-1 protein, human
  • Nkx3-1 protein, rat
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Transcription Factors
  • Transcription Activator-Like Effector Nucleases