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Concept: Knockout mouse


Triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells-2 (TREM2) is a microglial surface receptor involved in phagocytosis. Clearance of apoptotic debris after stroke represents an important mechanism to re-attain tissue homeostasis and thereby ensure functional recovery. The role of TREM2 following stroke is currently unclear.

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, Apoptosis, Anti-inflammatory, Vesicle, Knockout mouse


Secreted and surface-displayed carbohydrates are essential for virulence and viability of many parasites, including for immune system evasion. We have identified the α-Gal trisaccharide epitope on the surface of the protozoan parasites Leishmania infantum and Leishmania amazonensis, the etiological agents of visceral and cutaneous leishmaniasis, respectively, with the latter bearing larger amounts of α-Gal than the former. A polyvalent α-Gal conjugate on the immunogenic Qβ virus-like particle was tested as a vaccine against Leishmania infection in a C57BL/6 α-galactosyltransferase knockout mouse model, which mimics human hosts in producing high titers of anti-α-Gal antibodies. As expected, α-Gal-T knockout mice infected with promastigotes of both Leishmania species showed significantly lower parasite load in the liver and slightly decreased levels in the spleen, compared with wild-type mice. Vaccination with Qβ-α-Gal nanoparticles protected the knockout mice against Leishmania challenge, eliminating the infection and proliferation of parasites in the liver and spleen as probed by qPCR. The α-Gal epitope may therefore be considered as a vaccine candidate to block human cutaneous and visceral leishmaniasis.

Concepts: Immune system, Microbiology, Vaccine, Immunology, Leishmaniasis, Cutaneous leishmaniasis, Leishmania, Knockout mouse


The acrosome is a specialized organelle that covers the anterior part of the sperm nucleus and plays an essential role in mammalian fertilization. However, the regulatory mechanisms controlling acrosome biogenesis and acrosome exocytosis during fertilization are largely unknown. Equatorin (Eqtn) is a membrane protein that is specifically localized to the acrosomal membrane. In the present study, the physiological functions of Eqtn were investigated using a gene knockout mouse model. We found that Eqtn(-/-) males were subfertile. Only approximately 50% of plugged females were pregnant after mating with Eqtn(-/-) males, whereas more than 90% of plugged females were pregnant after mating with control males. Sperm and acrosomes from Eqtn(-/-) mice presented normal motility and morphology. However, the fertilization and induced acrosome exocytosis rates of Eqtn-deficient sperm were dramatically reduced. Further studies revealed that the Eqtn protein might interact with Syntaxin1a and SNAP25, but loss of Eqtn did not affect the protein levels of these genes. Therefore, our study demonstrates that Eqtn is not essential for acrosome biogenesis but is required for the acrosome reaction. Eqtn is involved in the fusion of the outer acrosomal membrane and the sperm plasma membrane during the acrosome reaction, most likely via an interaction with the SNARE complex.

Concepts: Gene, Cell, Reproduction, Organelle, Spermatozoon, Knockout mouse, Acrosome, Acrosome reaction


The ongoing Zika virus (ZIKV) epidemic and unexpected clinical outcomes, including Guillain-Barré syndrome and birth defects, has brought an urgent need for animal models. We evaluated infection and pathogenesis with contemporary and historical ZIKV strains in immunocompetent mice and mice lacking components of the antiviral response. Four- to six-week-old Irf3(-/-)Irf5(-/-)Irf7(-/-) triple knockout mice, which produce little interferon α/β, and mice lacking the interferon receptor (Ifnar1(-/-)) developed neurological disease and succumbed to ZIKV infection, whereas single Irf3(-/-), Irf5(-/-), and Mavs(-/-) knockout mice exhibited no overt illness. Ifnar1(-/-) mice sustained high viral loads in the brain and spinal cord, consistent with evidence that ZIKV causes neurodevelopmental defects in human fetuses. The testes of Ifnar1(-/-) mice had the highest viral loads, which is relevant to sexual transmission of ZIKV. This model of ZIKV pathogenesis will be valuable for evaluating vaccines and therapeutics as well as understanding disease pathogenesis.

Concepts: Immune system, Medicine, Epidemiology, Infectious disease, Virus, Influenza, Gene knockout, Knockout mouse


Folliculin (FLCN)-interacting proteins 1 and 2 (FNIP1, FNIP2) are homologous binding partners of FLCN, a tumor suppressor for kidney cancer. Recent studies have revealed potential functions for Flcn in kidney; however, kidney-specific functions for Fnip1 and Fnip2 are unknown. Here we demonstrate that Fnip1 and Fnip2 play critical roles in kidney tumor suppression in cooperation with Flcn. We observed no detectable phenotype in Fnip2 knockout mice, whereas Fnip1 deficiency produced phenotypes similar to those seen in Flcn-deficient mice in multiple organs, but not in kidneys. We found that absolute Fnip2 mRNA copy number was low relative to Fnip1 in organs that showed phenotypes under Fnip1 deficiency but was comparable to Fnip1 mRNA copy number in mouse kidney. Strikingly, kidney-targeted Fnip1/Fnip2 double inactivation produced enlarged polycystic kidneys, as was previously reported in Flcn-deficient kidneys. Kidney-specific Flcn inactivation did not further augment kidney size or cystic histology of Fnip1/Fnip2 double-deficient kidneys, suggesting pathways dysregulated in Flcn-deficient kidneys and Fnip1/Fnip2 double-deficient kidneys are convergent. Heterozygous Fnip1/homozygous Fnip2 double-knockout mice developed kidney cancer at 24 mo of age, analogous to the heterozygous Flcn knockout mouse model, further supporting the concept that Fnip1 and Fnip2 are essential for the tumor-suppressive function of Flcn and that kidney tumorigenesis in human Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome may be triggered by loss of interactions among Flcn, Fnip1, and Fnip2. Our findings uncover important roles for Fnip1 and Fnip2 in kidney tumor suppression and may provide molecular targets for the development of novel therapeutics for kidney cancer.

Concepts: Kidney, Gene, Cancer, Oncology, Polycystic kidney disease, Gene knockout, Mice, Knockout mouse


Sensory hypersensitivity is a common symptom in autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), including Fragile X Syndrome (FXS), and frequently leads to tactile defensiveness. In mouse models of ASDs, there is mounting evidence of neuronal and circuit hyperexcitability in several brain regions, which could contribute to sensory hypersensitivity. However, it is not yet known whether or how sensory stimulation might trigger abnormal sensory processing at the circuit level or abnormal behavioral responses in ASD mouse models, especially during an early developmental time when experience-dependent plasticity shapes such circuits. Using a novel assay, we discovered exaggerated motor responses to whisker stimulation in young Fmr1 knockout (KO) mice (postnatal days (P) 14-16), a model of FXS. Adult Fmr1 KO mice actively avoided a stimulus that was innocuous to wild-type controls, a sign of tactile defensiveness. Using in vivo two-photon calcium imaging of Layer 2/3 barrel cortex neurons expressing GCaMP6s, we found no differences between wild-type and Fmr1 KO mice in overall whisker-evoked activity, though 45% fewer neurons in young Fmr1 KO mice responded in a time-locked manner. Notably, we identified a pronounced deficit in neuronal adaptation to repetitive whisker stimulation in both young and adult Fmr1 KO mice. Thus, impaired adaptation in cortical sensory circuits is a potential cause of tactile defensiveness in autism.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTWe use a novel paradigm of repetitive whisker stimulation and in vivo calcium imaging to assess tactile defensiveness and barrel cortex activity in young and adult Fmr1 knockout mice, the mouse model of Fragile X Syndrome. We describe evidence of tactile defensiveness, as well as a lack of L2/3 neuronal adaptation in barrel cortex, during whisker stimulation. We propose that a defect in sensory adaptation within local neuronal networks, beginning at a young age and continuing into adulthood, likely contributes to sensory overreactivity in FXS and perhaps other ASDs.

Concepts: Neuron, Gene, Cerebral cortex, Autism, Asperger syndrome, Mice, Fragile X syndrome, Knockout mouse


Endocannabinoids and some phytocannabinoids bind to CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, transient receptor potential vanilloid one (TRPV1) receptor and the orphan G protein receptor fifty-five (GPR55). Studies using C57BL/10 and C57BL/6 (Cnr2 (tm1Zim)) CB2 cannabinoid receptor knockout mice have demonstrated an immune-augmenting effect in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) models of multiple sclerosis. However, other EAE studies in Biozzi ABH mice often failed to show any treatment effect of either CB2 receptor agonism or antagonism on inhibition of T cell autoimmunity. The influence of genetic background on the induction of EAE in endocannabinoid system-related gene knockout mice was examined. It was found that C57BL/6.GPR55 knockout mice developed less severe disease, notably in female mice, following active induction with myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein 35-55 peptide. In contrast C57BL/6.CB2 (Cnr2 (Dgen)) receptor knockout mice developed augmented severity of disease consistent with the genetically and pharmacologically-distinct, Cnr2 (tm1Zim) mice. However, when the knockout gene was bred into the ABH mouse background and EAE induced with spinal cord autoantigens the immune-enhancing effect of CB2 receptor deletion was lost. Likewise CB1 receptor and transient receptor potential vanilloid one knockout mice on the ABH background demonstrated no alteration in immune-susceptibility, in terms of disease incidence and severity of EAE, in contrast to that reported in some C57BL/6 mouse studies. Furthermore the immune-modulating influence of GPR55 was marginal on the ABH mouse background. Whilst sedative doses of tetrahydrocannabinol could induce immunosuppression, this was associated with a CB1 receptor rather than a CB2 receptor-mediated effect. These data support the fact that non-psychoactive doses of medicinal cannabis have a marginal influence on the immune response in MS. Importantly, it adds a note of caution for the translational value of some transgenic/gene knockout and other studies on low-EAE susceptibility backgrounds with inconsistent disease course and susceptibility.

Concepts: Immune system, Genetics, Receptor, Multiple sclerosis, Cannabinoid receptor, Tetrahydrocannabinol, Cannabis, Knockout mouse


To examine the effects of pomegranate extract on inflammation and oxidative stress and the development of spontaneous occlusive coronary artery atherosclerosis in the SR-BI/apoE double knockout mouse model of coronary heart disease.

Concepts: Atherosclerosis, Coronary artery disease, Heart, Atheroma, Artery, Coronary circulation, Mice, Knockout mouse


The tumor suppressor phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) plays a central role in regulating phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K) signaling, and its gene is very frequently mutated in various human cancers. Numerous studies have revealed that PTEN levels are tightly regulated by both transcriptional and post-translational modifications, with especially ubiquitylation significantly regulating PTEN protein levels. Although several ubiquitin ligases have been reported to mediate PTEN ubiquitylation in vitro, the ubiquitin ligase that promotes PTEN degradation in vivo has not been reported. Here, we took advantage of specific knock-out mouse models to demonstrate that WW domain-containing E3 ubiquitin protein ligase 2 (WWP2) promotes PTEN degradation under physiological conditions, whereas another ubiquitin ligase, carboxy terminus of Hsp70-interacting protein (CHIP), had no such effect. WWP2 knock-out mice exhibited reduced body size, elevated PTEN protein levels, and reduced phosphorylation levels of the serine/threonine kinase and PTEN target AKT. In contrast, we observed no elevation of PTEN protein levels in CHIP knockout tissues and mouse embryonic fibroblasts. Furthermore, PTEN protein levels in CHIP/WWP2 double knock-out mice were very similar to those in WWP2 single knockout mice and significantly higher than in WT and CHIP knockout mice. Our results demonstrate that WWP2, rather than CHIP, is an ubiquitin ligase that promotes PTEN degradation in vivo Considering PTEN’s significant role in tumor development, we propose that WWP2 may be a potential target for fine-tuning PTEN levels in anticancer therapies.

Concepts: Cancer, Enzyme, Posttranslational modification, Ubiquitin, Ubiquitin ligase, Gene knockout, Mice, Knockout mouse


Cerebrovascular diseases are conditions caused by problems with brain vasculature, which have a high morbidity and mortality. Aquaporin-4 (AQP4) is the most abundant water channel in the brain and crucial for the formation and resolution of brain edema. Considering brain edema is an important pathophysiological change after stoke, AQP4 is destined to have close relation with cerebrovascular diseases. However, this relation is not limited to brain edema due to other biological effects elicited by AQP4. Till now, multiple studies have investigated roles of AQP4 in cerebrovascular diseases. This review focuses on expression of AQP4 and the effects of AQP4 on brain edema and neural cells injuries in cerebrovascular diseases including cerebral ischemia, intracerebral hemorrhage and subarachnoid hemorrhage. In the current review, we pay more attention to the studies of recent years directly from cerebrovascular diseases animal models or patients, especially those using AQP4 gene knockout mice. This review also elucidates the potential of AQP4as an excellent therapeutic target.

Concepts: Medicine, Neuron, Stroke, Traumatic brain injury, Cardiovascular system, Cerebrospinal fluid, Cerebral hemorrhage, Knockout mouse