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Development of two mouse strains conditionally expressing bright luciferases with distinct emission spectra as new tools for in vivo imaging

In vivo bioluminescence imaging (BLI) has been an invaluable noninvasive method to visualize molecular and cellular behaviors in laboratory animals. Bioluminescent reporter mice harboring luciferases for general use have been limited to a classical luciferase, Luc2, from Photinus pyralis, and have been extremely powerful for various in vivo studies. However, applicability of reporter mice for in vivo BLI could be further accelerated by increasing light intensity through the use of other luciferases and/or by improving the biodistribution of their substrates in the animal body. Here we created two Cre-dependent reporter mice incorporating luciferases oFluc derived from Pyrocoeli matsumurai and Akaluc, both of which had been reported previously to be brighter than Luc2 when using appropriate substrates; we then tested their bioluminescence in neural tissues and other organs in living mice. When expressed throughout the body, both luciferases emitted an intense yellow (oFluc) or far-red (Akaluc) light easily visible to the naked eye. oFluc and Akaluc were similarly bright in the pancreas for in vivo BLI; however, Akaluc was superior to oFluc for brain imaging, because its substrate, AkaLumine-HCl, was distributed to the brain more efficiently than the oFluc substrate, D-luciferin. We also demonstrated that the lights produced by oFluc and Akaluc were sufficiently spectrally distinct from each other for dual-color imaging in a single living mouse. Taken together, these novel bioluminescent reporter mice are an ideal source of cells with bright bioluminescence and may facilitate in vivo BLI of various tissues/organs for preclinical and biomedical research in combination with a wide variety of Cre-driver mice.

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