The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 42: 943 - 950 (1998)

Vol 42, Issue 7

Special Issue: Stem Cells and Transgenesis

Thirteen years of manipulating the mouse genome: a personal history

Published: 1 October 1998

A Bradley, B Zheng and P Liu

Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


In 1974, Dr. Ralph Brinster published a paper describing the consequences of injecting embryonal carcinoma cells, the predecessors of embryonic stem cells, into mouse blastocysts. Despite their early promise, embryonal carcinoma cells would not efficiently populate the germ line of mice. A decade later Elizabeth Robertson and I described the efficient generation of germline chimaeras from cultured embryonic stem cells and shortly afterwards the genetic manipulation of the mouse germline using ES cells. Our demonstration of the potency of Embryonic Stem cells gave birth to a new era in manipulative mouse genetics, one in which endogenous genes can now be mutated at will using gene targeting of retroviral mutagenesis. This review focuses on the development and testing of concepts and techniques during the thirteen years after we knew germline modification of endogenous genes in the mouse would be possible. This period is one in which more and more sophisticated tools for manipulating the mouse germline were developed and implemented. In this review I have taken the rare opportunity to reveal some of my thought processes, frustrations, successes and failures as we moved through this exciting period of rapid technological change. As I look forward to the next thirteen years, I feel that this will be an equally exciting period for manipulative genetics as we struggle to formulate concepts and design experiments that enable us to understand gene function in an era when the sequence of all genes will be known.

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