Phenotypic diversity caused by differential expression of SFTPC-Cre-transgenic alleles

Mao Jiang, Mark G. Roth, Pattra Chun-On, Daniel I. Sullivan, Jonathan K. Alder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Type II alveolar epithelial cells (AEC2s) play an essential role in the function and maintenance of the pulmonary epithelium. Several transgenic mice have been developed to study the function of these cells in vivo by using the human SFTPC promoter to drive expression of Cre recombinase. The precise activity of each of these transgenic alleles has not been studied, and previous reports suggest that their activity can depend on breeding strategies. We bred mice with a conditional allele of the essential telomere capping protein TRF2 with two different SFTPC-Cre-transgenic strains and observed opposite phenotypes (100% lethality vs. 100% viability). We characterized the Cre recombinase activity in these two transgenic lines and found that the contrasting phenotypes were driven by difference in embryonic expression of the two transgenes, likely due to position effects or differences in the transgenic constructs. We also tested if SFTPC-Cre activity was dependent on maternal or paternal inheritance. When paternally inherited, both SFTPC-Cre alleles produced offspring with constitutive reporter activity independent of the inheritance of the Cre allele, suggesting that Cre recombinase was expressed in the male germline before meiosis. Immunohistochemical analysis of the testis showed reporter activity during spermatogenesis. Analysis of single-cell RNA sequencing data from murine and human testis demonstrated SFTPC expression uniquely during human spermatogenesis, suggesting that use of the human promoter in these constructs is responsible for male germline activity. Our data highlight the importance of careful analysis of transgenic allele activity and identify an SFTPC-Cre allele that is useful for panepithelial targeting in the mouse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)692-698
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican journal of respiratory cell and molecular biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2020


  • Lineage tracing
  • Lung development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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