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4-hydroxytamoxifen does not deteriorate cardiac function in cardiomyocyte-specific MerCreMer transgenic mice

Conditional, cell-type-specific transgenic mouse lines are of high value in cardiovascular research. A standard tool for cardiomyocyte-restricted DNA editing is the αMHC-MerCreMer/loxP system. However, there is an ongoing debate on the occurrence of cardiac side effects caused by unspecific Cre activity or related to tamoxifen/oil overload. Here, we investigated potential adverse effects of DNA editing by the αMHC-MerCreMer/loxP system in combination with a low-dose treatment protocol with the tamoxifen metabolite 4-hydroxytamoxifen (OH-Txf). αMHC-MerCreMer mice received intraperitoneally OH-Txf (20 mg/kg) for 5 or 10 days. These treatment protocols were highly efficient to induce DNA editing in adult mouse hearts. Multi-parametric magnetic resonance imaging revealed neither transient nor permanent effects on cardiac function during or up to 19 days after 5 day OH-Txf treatment. Furthermore, OH-Txf did not affect cardiac phosphocreatine/ATP ratios assessed by in vivo 31P MR spectroscopy, indicating no Cre-mediated side effects on cardiac energy status. No MRI-based indication for the development of cardiac fibrosis was found as mean T1 relaxation time was unchanged. Histological analysis of myocardial collagen III content after OH-Txf confirmed this result. Last, mean T2 relaxation time was not altered after Txf treatment suggesting no pronounced cardiac lipid accumulation or tissue oedema. In additional experiments, cardiac function was assessed for up to 42 days to investigate potential delayed side effects of OH-Txf treatment. Neither 5- nor 10-day treatment resulted in a depression of cardiac function. Efficient cardiomyocyte-restricted DNA editing that is free of unwanted side effects on cardiac function, energetics or fibrosis can be achieved in adult mice when the αMHC-MerCreMer/loxP system is activated by the tamoxifen metabolite OH-Txf.

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