Fluorescent proteins are genetically encoded, easily imaged reporters crucial in biology and biotechnology. When a protein is tagged by fusion to a fluorescent protein, interactions between fluorescent proteins can undesirably disturb targeting or function. Unfortunately, all wild-type yellow-to-red fluorescent proteins reported so far are obligately tetrameric and often toxic or disruptive. The first true monomer was mRFP1, derived from the Discosoma sp. fluorescent protein "DsRed" by directed evolution first to increase the speed of maturation, then to break each subunit interface while restoring fluorescence, which cumulatively required 33 substitutions. Although mRFP1 has already proven widely useful, several properties could bear improvement and more colors would be welcome. We report the next generation of monomers. The latest red version matures more completely, is more tolerant of N-terminal fusions and is over tenfold more photostable than mRFP1. Three monomers with distinguishable hues from yellow-orange to red-orange have higher quantum efficiencies.Read more
The intestinal epithelium is the most rapidly self-renewing tissue in adult mammals. It is currently believed that four to six crypt stem cells reside at the +4 position immediately above the Paneth cells in the small intestine; colon stem cells remain undefined. Lgr5 (leucine-rich-repeat-containing G-protein-coupled receptor 5, also known as Gpr49) was selected from a panel of intestinal Wnt target genes for its restricted crypt expression. Here, using two knock-in alleles, we reveal exclusive expression of Lgr5 in cycling columnar cells at the crypt base. In addition, Lgr5 was expressed in rare cells in several other tissues. Using an inducible Cre knock-in allele and the Rosa26-lacZ reporter strain, lineage-tracing experiments were performed in adult mice. The Lgr5-positive crypt base columnar cell generated all epithelial lineages over a 60-day period, suggesting that it represents the stem cell of the small intestine and colon. The expression pattern of Lgr5 suggests that it marks stem cells in multiple adult tissues and cancers.Read more
The Cre/lox system is widely used in mice to achieve cell-type-specific gene expression. However, a strong and universally responding system to express genes under Cre control is still lacking. We have generated a set of Cre reporter mice with strong, ubiquitous expression of fluorescent proteins of different spectra. The robust native fluorescence of these reporters enables direct visualization of fine dendritic structures and axonal projections of the labeled neurons, which is useful in mapping neuronal circuitry, imaging and tracking specific cell populations in vivo. Using these reporters and a high-throughput in situ hybridization platform, we are systematically profiling Cre-directed gene expression throughout the mouse brain in several Cre-driver lines, including new Cre lines targeting different cell types in the cortex. Our expression data are displayed in a public online database to help researchers assess the utility of various Cre-driver lines for cell-type-specific genetic manipulation.Read more
Several Cre reporter strains of mice have been described, in which a lacZ gene is turned on in cells expressing Cre recombinase, as well as their daughter cells, following Cre-mediated excision of a loxP-flanked transcriptional "stop" sequence. These mice are useful for cell lineage tracing experiments as well as for monitoring the expression of Cre transgenes. The green fluorescent protein (GFP) and variants such as EYFP and ECFP offer an advantage over lacZ as a reporter, in that they can be easily visualized without recourse to the vital substrates required to visualize beta-gal in living tissue.
In view of the general utility of targeting the ubiquitously expressed ROSA26 locus, we constructed a generic ROSA26 targeting vector. We then generated two reporter lines of mice by inserting EYFP or ECFP cDNAs into the ROSA26 locus, preceded by a loxP-flanked stop sequence. These strains were tested by crossing them with transgenic strains expressing Cre in a ubiquitous (beta-actin-Cre) or a cell-specific (Isl1-Cre and En1-Cre) pattern. The resulting EYFP or ECFP expression patterns indicated that the reporter strains function as faithful monitors of Cre activity.
In contrast to existing lacZ reporter lines, where lacZ expression cannot easily be detected in living tissue, the EYFP and ECFP reporter strains are useful for monitoring the expression of Cre and tracing the lineage of these cells and their descendants in cultured embryos or organs. The non-overlapping emission spectra of EYFP and ECFP make them ideal for double labeling studies in living tissues.Read more
The Cre/loxP system has been used extensively for conditional mutagenesis in mice. Reporters of Cre activity are important for defining the spatial and temporal extent of Cre-mediated recombination. Here we describe mT/mG, a double-fluorescent Cre reporter mouse that expresses membrane-targeted tandem dimer Tomato (mT) prior to Cre-mediated excision and membrane-targeted green fluorescent protein (mG) after excision. We show that reporter expression is nearly ubiquitous, allowing visualization of fluorescent markers in live and fixed samples of all tissues examined. We further demonstrate that mG labeling is Cre-dependent, complementary to mT at single cell resolution, and distinguishable by fluorescence-activated cell sorting. Both membrane-targeted markers outline cell morphology, highlight membrane structures, and permit visualization of fine cellular processes. In addition to serving as a global Cre reporter, the mT/mG mouse may also be used as a tool for lineage tracing, transplantation studies, and analysis of cell morphology in vivo.Read more
The cellular constituents forming the haematopoietic stem cell (HSC) niche in the bone marrow are unclear, with studies implicating osteoblasts, endothelial and perivascular cells. Here we demonstrate that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), identified using nestin expression, constitute an essential HSC niche component. Nestin(+) MSCs contain all the bone-marrow colony-forming-unit fibroblastic activity and can be propagated as non-adherent 'mesenspheres' that can self-renew and expand in serial transplantations. Nestin(+) MSCs are spatially associated with HSCs and adrenergic nerve fibres, and highly express HSC maintenance genes. These genes, and others triggering osteoblastic differentiation, are selectively downregulated during enforced HSC mobilization or beta3 adrenoreceptor activation. Whereas parathormone administration doubles the number of bone marrow nestin(+) cells and favours their osteoblastic differentiation, in vivo nestin(+) cell depletion rapidly reduces HSC content in the bone marrow. Purified HSCs home near nestin(+) MSCs in the bone marrow of lethally irradiated mice, whereas in vivo nestin(+) cell depletion significantly reduces bone marrow homing of haematopoietic progenitors. These results uncover an unprecedented partnership between two distinct somatic stem-cell types and are indicative of a unique niche in the bone marrow made of heterotypic stem-cell pairs.Read more
Microglia are the resident macrophages of the central nervous system and are associated with the pathogenesis of many neurodegenerative and brain inflammatory diseases; however, the origin of adult microglia remains controversial. We show that postnatal hematopoietic progenitors do not significantly contribute to microglia homeostasis in the adult brain. In contrast to many macrophage populations, we show that microglia develop in mice that lack colony stimulating factor-1 (CSF-1) but are absent in CSF-1 receptor-deficient mice. In vivo lineage tracing studies established that adult microglia derive from primitive myeloid progenitors that arise before embryonic day 8. These results identify microglia as an ontogenically distinct population in the mononuclear phagocyte system and have implications for the use of embryonically derived microglial progenitors for the treatment of various brain disorders.Read more
The reprogramming of fibroblasts to induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) raises the possibility that a somatic cell could be reprogrammed to an alternative differentiated fate without first becoming a stem/progenitor cell. A large pool of fibroblasts exists in the postnatal heart, yet no single "master regulator" of direct cardiac reprogramming has been identified. Here, we report that a combination of three developmental transcription factors (i.e., Gata4, Mef2c, and Tbx5) rapidly and efficiently reprogrammed postnatal cardiac or dermal fibroblasts directly into differentiated cardiomyocyte-like cells. Induced cardiomyocytes expressed cardiac-specific markers, had a global gene expression profile similar to cardiomyocytes, and contracted spontaneously. Fibroblasts transplanted into mouse hearts one day after transduction of the three factors also differentiated into cardiomyocyte-like cells. We believe these findings demonstrate that functional cardiomyocytes can be directly reprogrammed from differentiated somatic cells by defined factors. Reprogramming of endogenous or explanted fibroblasts might provide a source of cardiomyocytes for regenerative approaches.Read more
Brown fat can increase energy expenditure and protect against obesity through a specialized program of uncoupled respiration. Here we show by in vivo fate mapping that brown, but not white, fat cells arise from precursors that express Myf5, a gene previously thought to be expressed only in the myogenic lineage. We also demonstrate that the transcriptional regulator PRDM16 (PRD1-BF1-RIZ1 homologous domain containing 16) controls a bidirectional cell fate switch between skeletal myoblasts and brown fat cells. Loss of PRDM16 from brown fat precursors causes a loss of brown fat characteristics and promotes muscle differentiation. Conversely, ectopic expression of PRDM16 in myoblasts induces their differentiation into brown fat cells. PRDM16 stimulates brown adipogenesis by binding to PPAR-gamma (peroxisome-proliferator-activated receptor-gamma) and activating its transcriptional function. Finally, Prdm16-deficient brown fat displays an abnormal morphology, reduced thermogenic gene expression and elevated expression of muscle-specific genes. Taken together, these data indicate that PRDM16 specifies the brown fat lineage from a progenitor that expresses myoblast markers and is not involved in white adipogenesis.Read more