Diversity of Reporter Expression Patterns in Transgenic Mouse Lines Targeting Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone-Expressing Neurons

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Transgenic mice, including lines targeting corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF or CRH), have been extensively employed to study stress neurobiology. These powerful tools are poised to revolutionize our understanding of the localization and connectivity of CRH-expressing neurons, and the crucial roles of CRH in normal and pathological conditions. Accurate interpretation of studies using cell type-specific transgenic mice vitally depends on congruence between expression of the endogenous peptide and reporter. If reporter expression does not faithfully reproduce native gene expression, then effects of manipulating unintentionally targeted cells may be misattributed. Here, we studied CRH and reporter expression patterns in 3 adult transgenic mice: Crh-IRES-Cre;Ai14 (tdTomato mouse), Crfp3.0CreGFP, and Crh-GFP BAC. We employed the CRH antiserum generated by Vale after validating its specificity using CRH-null mice. We focused the analyses on stress-salient regions, including hypothalamus, amygdala, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, and hippocampus. Expression patterns of endogenous CRH were consistent among wild-type and transgenic mice. In tdTomato mice, most CRH-expressing neurons coexpressed the reporter, yet the reporter identified a few non-CRH-expressing pyramidal-like cells in hippocampal CA1 and CA3. In Crfp3.0CreGFP mice, coexpression of CRH and the reporter was found in central amygdala and, less commonly, in other evaluated regions. In Crh-GFP BAC mice, the large majority of neurons expressed either CRH or reporter, with little overlap. These data highlight significant diversity in concordant expression of reporter and endogenous CRH among 3 available transgenic mice. These findings should be instrumental in interpreting important scientific findings emerging from the use of these potent neurobiological tools.

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