Analysis of Cre lines for targeting embryonic airway smooth muscle

Katharine Goodwin, Celeste M. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During development of the embryonic mouse lung, the pulmonary mesenchyme differentiates into smooth muscle that wraps around the airway epithelium. Inhibiting smooth muscle differentiation leads to cystic airways, while enhancing it stunts epithelial branching. These findings support a conceptual model wherein the differentiation of smooth muscle sculpts the growing epithelium into branches at precise positions and with stereotyped morphologies. Unfortunately, most approaches to manipulate the differentiation of airway smooth muscle rely on pharmacological or physical perturbations that are conducted ex vivo. Here, we explored the use of diphtheria toxin-based genetic ablation strategies to eliminate airway smooth muscle in the embryonic mouse lung. Surprisingly, neither airway smooth muscle wrapping nor epithelial branching were affected in embryos in which the expression of diphtheria toxin or its receptor were driven by several different smooth muscle-specific Cre lines. Close examination of spatial patterns of Cre activity in the embryonic lung revealed that none of these commonly used Cre lines target embryonic airway smooth muscle robustly or specifically. Our findings demonstrate the need for airway smooth muscle-specific Cre lines that are active in the embryonic lung, and serve as a resource for researchers contemplating the use of these commonly used Cre lines for studying embryonic airway smooth muscle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-72
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopmental biology
StatePublished - Apr 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology
  • Developmental Biology


  • Mechanical stress
  • Morphodynamics
  • Morphogenesis


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