The History of Transgenesis.

A transgenic mouse carries within its genome an artificial DNA construct (transgene) that is deliberately introduced by an experimentalist. These animals are widely used to understand gene function and protein function.

When addressing the history of transgenic mouse technology, it is apparent that a number of basic scienceresearch areas laid the groundwork for success. These include reproductive science, genetics and molecular biology, and micromanipulation and microscopy equipment.

From reproductive physiology came applications on how to optimize mouse breeding, how to superovulate mice to produce zygotes for DNA microinjection or preimplantation embryos for combination with embryonic stem (ES) cells, and how to return zygotes and embryos to a pseudopregnant surrogate dam for gestation and birth. From developmental biology, it was learned how to micromanipulate embryos for morula aggregation and blastocyst microinjection and how to establish germline competent ES cells.

From genetics came the foundational principles governing the inheritance of genes, the interactions of gene products, and an understanding of the phenotypic consequences of genetic mutations.

From molecular biology came a panoply of tools and reagents that are used to clone DNA transgenes, to detect the presence of transgenes, to assess gene expression by measuring transcription, and to detect proteins in cells and tissues. Technical advances in light microscopes, micromanipulators, micropipette pullers, and ancillary equipment made it possible for experimentalists to insert thin glass needles into zygotes or embryos under controlled conditions to inject DNA solutions or ES cells.

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To fully discuss the breadth of contributions of these numerous scientific disciplines to a comprehensive history of transgenic science is beyond the scope of this work. Examples will be used to illustrate scientific developments central to the foundation of transgenic technology and that are in use today.