In neuroscience, rats have several advantages over mice as a model organism. For instance, behavioral experiments are more advanced and the larger size of the brain is better suited for surgical manipulation and biochemistry. Furthermore, the vascular physiology of rats is considered closer to human, providing clinical relevance. Because transgenesis rates achieved by conventional pronuclear injection are extremely low (0.2-3.5%), the availability of transgenic rats in neuroscience is limited. Lentivirus infection is an efficient way to integrate exogenous genes into the genome of a one-cell embryo to generate transgenic animals. We report here the generation of synapsin I promoter driven GRIP1-transgenic rats using lentiviral transgenesis. GRIP1 was chosen as a transgene because it interacts with AMPA receptors and is involved in glutamate receptor signaling. From a single infection experiment, 45% of the offspring carried the transgene and 40% achieved germ-line transmission. The expression of GRIP1 was observed at low levels in brain, spinal cord and testis. Interestingly, one transgenic copy lacked a 147 bp fragment in the GRIP1 coding region most likely caused by alternative splicing of genomic lentiviral RNA. Co-immunoprecipitation from rat brains showed that transgenic GRIP1 is in complex with the endogenous GluR2 subunit of AMPA receptors. These results indicate that functional transgenic GRIP1 protein is expressed in rat brain using lentiviral vectors containing a human synapsin I promoter. Tissue specific lentiviral transgenic rats will be a powerful tool for various applications in modern neuroscience.

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Journal of Neuroscience Methods
Department of Neuroscience

Nakagawa, T, Feliu-Mojer, M.I, Wulf, P, Lois, C, Sheng, M, & Hoogenraad, C.C. (2006). Generation of lentiviral transgenic rats expressing Glutamate Receptor Interacting Protein 1 (GRIP1) in brain, spinal cord and testis. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 152(1-2), 1–9. doi:10.1016/j.jneumeth.2005.08.001