The Pax3-Cre transgene exhibits a rostrocaudal gradient of expression in the skeletal muscle lineage

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Pax3-Cre (P3Pro-Cre) transgenic mice have been used for conditional gene deletion and/or lineage tracing in derivatives of neural crest, neural tube, metanephric mesenchyme, and ureteric mesenchyme. However, the extent of its expression in skeletal muscle has not been reported. We investigated the expression of P3Pro-Cre in the skeletal muscle lineage using the R26R reporter and found an unexpected rostrocaudal gradient of expression. By X-gal staining, head, neck, forelimb, diaphragm, and most of the chest wall muscles did not show evidence of Cre expression, whereas all muscle groups posterior of the diaphragm stained blue. Intercostal muscles exhibited a rostrocaudal gradient of staining. The consistency of this expression pattern was demonstrated by using P3Pro-Cre to mutate a conditional dystroglycan allele. The result was loss of dystroglycan from caudal muscles, which exhibited the histological signs of muscle fiber injury and regeneration characteristic of muscular dystrophy. The lack of dystroglycan in regenerating myofibers suggests that the P3Pro-Cre transgene is active in satellite cells and/or in their precursors. In contrast, rostral muscles, including feeding and breathing muscles, maintained dystroglycan expression and were spared from disease. Accordingly, the mutants were viable for over a year. Its unique gradient of activity makes the P3Pro-Cre transgene a previously unappreciated yet powerful tool for manipulating gene expression in skeletal muscle and its precursors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009


  • Cre
  • Dystroglycan
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Pax3


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