Trophoblast-specific gene manipulation using lentivirus-based vectors
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The trophoblast layers of the mammalian placenta carry out many complex functions required to pattern the developing embryo and maintain its growth and survival in the uterine environment. Genetic disruption of many gene pathways can result in embryonic lethality because of placental failure, potentially confusing the interpretation of mouse knockout phenotypes. Development of tools to specifically and efficiently manipulate gene expression in the trophoblast lineage would greatly aid understanding of the relative roles of different genetic pathways in the trophoblast versus embryonic lineages. We show that short-term lentivirus-mediated infection of mouse blastocysts can lead to rapid expression of a green fluorescent protein (GFP) transgene specifically in the outer trophoblast progenitors and their later placental derivatives. Efficient trophoblast-specific gene knockdown can also be produced by lentivirus-mediated pol III-driven short hairpin RNA (shRNA) and efficient trophoblast-specific gene knockout by pol II-driven Cre recombinase lentiviral vectors. This lentivirus lineage-specific infection system thus facilitates both gain and loss of function studies during placental development in the mouse and potentially other mammalian species.