The retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) provides vital metabolic support for retinal photoreceptor cells and is an important player in numerous retinal diseases. Gene manipulation in mice using the Cre-LoxP system is an invaluable tool for studying the genetic basis of these retinal diseases. However, existing RPE-targeted Cre mouse lines have critical limitations that restrict their reliability for studies of disease pathogenesis and treatment, including mosaic Cre expression, inducer-independent activity, off-target Cre expression, and intrinsic toxicity. Here, we report the generation and characterization of a knockin mouse line in which a P2A-CreERT2 coding sequence is fused with the native RPE-specific 65 kDa protein (Rpe65) gene for cotranslational expression of CreERT2. Cre+/– mice were able to recombine a stringent Cre reporter allele with more than 99% efficiency and absolute RPE specificity upon tamoxifen induction at both postnatal days (PD) 21 and 50. Tamoxifen-independent Cre activity was negligible at PD64. Moreover, tamoxifen-treated Cre+/– mice displayed no signs of structural or functional retinal pathology up to 4 months of age. Despite weak RPE65 expression from the knockin allele, visual cycle function was normal in Cre+/– mice. These data indicate that Rpe65CreERT2 mice are well suited for studies of gene function and pathophysiology in the RPE.
Elliot H. Choi, Susie Suh, David E. Einstein, Henri Leinonen, Zhiqian Dong, Sriganesh Ramachandra Rao, Steven J. Fliesler, Seth Blackshaw, Minzhong Yu, Neal S. Peachey, Krzysztof Palczewski, Philip D. Kiser