Tissue Specific Expression of Cre in Rat Tyrosine Hydroxylase and Dopamine Active Transporter-Positive Neurons

<div><p>The rat is a preferred model system over the mouse for neurological studies, and cell type-specific Cre expression in the rat enables precise ablation of gene function in neurons of interest, which is especially valuable for neurodegenerative disease modeling and optogenetics. Yet, few such Cre rats are available. Here we report the characterization of two Cre rats, tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)-Cre and dopamine active transporter (DAT or Slc6a3)-Cre, by using a combination of immunohistochemistry (IHC) and mRNA fluorescence <i>in situ</i> hybridization (FISH) as well as a fluorescent reporter for Cre activity. We detected Cre expression in expected neurons in both Cre lines. Interestingly, we also found that in Th-Cre rats, but not DAT-Cre rats, Cre is expressed in female germ cells, allowing germline excision of the floxed allele and hence the generation of whole-body knockout rats. In summary, our data demonstrate that targeted integration of Cre cassette lead to faithful recapitulation of expression pattern of the endogenous promoter, and mRNA FISH, in addition to IHC, is an effective method for the analysis of the spatiotemporal gene expression patterns in the rat brain, alleviating the dependence on high quality antibodies that are often not available against rat proteins. The Th-Cre and the DAT-Cre rat lines express Cre in selective subsets of dopaminergic neurons and should be particularly useful for researches on Parkinson’s disease.</p></div>