Volume 37 (2012) Issue 1 Pages 65-73
Genetically-encoded biosensors based on the principle of Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) have been widely used in biology to visualize the spatiotemporal dynamics of signaling molecules. Despite the increasing multitude of these biosensors, their application has been mostly limited to cultured cells with transient biosensor expression, due to particular difficulties in the development of transgenic mice that express FRET biosensors. In this study, we report the efficient generation of transgenic mouse lines expressing heritable and functional biosensors for ERK and PKA. These transgenic mice were created by the cytoplasmic co-injection of Tol2 transposase mRNA and a circular plasmid harbouring Tol2 recombination sites. High expression of the biosensors in a wide range of cell types allowed us to screen newborn mice simply by inspection. Observation of these transgenic mice by two-photon excitation microscopy yielded real-time activity maps of ERK and PKA in various tissues, with greatly improved signal-to-background ratios. Our transgenic mice may be bred into diverse genetic backgrounds; moreover, the protocol we have developed paves the way for the generation of transgenic mice that express other FRET biosensors, with important applications in the characterization of physiological and pathological signal transduction events in addition to drug development and screening.