Transgenic, inducible RNAi in megakaryocytes and platelets in mice


Ross A. Dickins, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, 1G Royal Parade, Parkville 3052, Vic., Australia.
Tel.: +61 3 9345 2482; fax: +61 3 0347 0852.


Summary Background: RNA interference (RNAi) is a powerful tool for suppressing gene function. The tetracycline (tet)-regulated expression system has recently been adapted to allow inducible RNAi in mice, however its efficiency in a particular cell type in vivo depends on a transgenic tet transactivator expression pattern and is often highly variable. Objective: We aimed to establish a transgenic strategy that allows efficient and inducible gene knockdown in particular hematopoietic lineages in mice. Methods and results: Using a tet-regulated reporter gene strategy, we found that transgenic mice expressing the rtTA (tet-on) transactivator under control of the cytomegalovirus (CMV) promoter (CMV-rtTA mice) display inducible reporter gene expression with unusual and near-complete efficiency in megakaryocytes and platelets. To test whether the CMV-rtTA transgene can drive inducible and efficient gene knockdown within this lineage, we generated a novel mouse strain harboring a tet-regulated short hairpin RNA (shRNA) targeting Bcl-xL, a pro-survival Bcl-2 family member known to be essential for maintaining platelet survival. Doxycycline treatment of adult mice carrying both transgenes induces shRNA expression, depletes Bcl-xL in megakaryocytes and triggers severe thrombocytopenia, whereas doxycycline withdrawal shuts off shRNA expression, normalizes Bcl-xL levels and restores platelet numbers. These effects are akin to those observed with drugs that target Bcl-xL, clearly demonstrating that this transgenic system allows efficient and inducible inhibition of genes in megakaryocytes and platelets. Conclusions: We have established a novel transgenic strategy for inducible gene knockdown in megakaryocytes and platelets that will be useful for characterizing genes involved in platelet production and function in adult mice.