Genetic visualization of the secondary olfactory pathway in Tbx21 transgenic mice

Sachiko Mitsui, Kei M Igarashi, Kensaku Mori, Yoshihiro Yoshihara
Neural Systems & Circuits 2011, 1 (1): 5

BACKGROUND: Mitral and tufted cells are the projection neurons in the olfactory bulb, conveying odour information to various regions of the olfactory cortex. In spite of their functional importance, there are few molecular and genetic tools that can be used for selective labelling or manipulation of mitral and tufted cells. Tbx21 was first identified as a T-box family transcription factor regulating the differentiation and function of T lymphocytes. In the brain, Tbx21 is specifically expressed in mitral and tufted cells of the olfactory bulb.

RESULTS: In this study, we performed a promoter/enhancer analysis of mouse Tbx21 gene by comparing nucleotide sequence similarity of Tbx21 genes among several mammalian species and generating transgenic mouse lines with various lengths of 5' upstream region fused to a fluorescent reporter gapVenus. We identified the cis-regulatory enhancer element (~300 nucleotides) at ~ 3.0 kb upstream of the transcription start site of Tbx21 gene, which is both necessary and sufficient for transgene expression in mitral and tufted cells. In contrast, the 2.6-kb 5'-flanking region of mouse Tbx21 gene induced transgene expression with variable patterns in restricted populations of neurons predominantly located along the olfactory pathway. Furthermore, we generated transgenic mice expressing the genetically-encoded fluorescent exocytosis indicator, synaptopHluorin, in mitral and tufted cells for visualization of presynaptic neural activities in the piriform cortex.

CONCLUSIONS: The transcriptional enhancer of Tbx21 gene provides a powerful tool for genetic manipulations of mitral and tufted cells in studying the development and function of the secondary olfactory pathways from the bulb to the cortex.

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