Inducible genetic system for the axolotl
Jessica L. Whited, Jessica A. Lehoczky, and Clifford J. Tabin
PNAS 2012 ; published ahead of print August 6, 2012, doi:10.1073/pnas.1211816109
Transgenesis promises a powerful means for assessing gene function during amphibian limb regeneration. This approach is complicated, however, by the need for embryonic appendage development to proceed unimpeded despite the genetic alterations one wishes to test later in the context of regeneration. Achieving conditional gene regulation in this amphibian has not proved to be as straightforward as in many other systems. In this report we describe a unique method for obtaining temporal control over exogenous gene expression in the axolotl. Based on technology derived from the Escherichia coli Lac operon, uninduced transgenes are kept in a repressed state by the binding of constitutively expressed Lac repressor protein (LacI) to operator sequences within the expression construct. Addition of a lactose analog, IPTG, to the swimming water of the axolotl is sufficient for the sugar to be taken up by cells, where it binds the LacI protein, thereby inducing expression of the repressed gene. We use this system to demonstrate an in vivo role for thrombospondin-4 in limb regeneration. This inducible system will allow for systematic analysis of phenotypes at defined developmental or regenerative time points. The tight regulation and robustness of gene induction combined with the simplicity of this strategy will prove invaluable for studying many aspects of axolotl biology.