A gene trap approach to identify genes that control development



One methodology called gene trap represents a versatile strategy by which murine genes that control developmental events can be captured and identified with corresponding mutants produced at the same time. Gene trap methodology has been developed and several genes and their mutants have been analyzed, but almost all of the genes reported are those already known or murine homologs of other species. In this study, the efficiency of the gene trap methodology was improved and a novel mutant mouse strain named jumonji established which displayed an intriguing defect. Homozygous fetal mice died in utero and a significant proportion of the homozygotes showed abnormal groove formation on the neural plate and a defect in neural tube closure with a mixed genetic background of 129/Ola and BALB/c. The trapped gene believed to be responsible for these phenotypes encodes a novel nuclear protein. The results reveal that the gene trap approach can identify unknown interesting genes in murine development. The gene trap strategy, however, has several problems, the greatest of which is the difficulty in prescreening embryonic stem (ES) cells for interesting trapped genes. Recent studies are solving this problem and show that the prescreening of ES cells for genes with several characteristics is possible.