A novel Cre-enabled tetracycline-inducible transgenic system for tissue-specific cytokine expression in the zebrafish: CETI-PIC3

Sara Ibrahim, Arianna Harris-Kawano, Isra Haider, Raghavendra G. Mirmira, Emily K. Sims, Ryan M. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Maladaptive signaling by pro-inflammatory cytokines (PICs), such as TNFα, IL1β and IFNγ, can activate downstream signaling cascades that are implicated in the development and progression of multiple inflammatory diseases. Despite playing critical roles in pathogenesis, the availability of in vivo models in which to model tissue-specific induction of PICs is limited. To bridge this gap, we have developed a novel multi-gene expression system dubbed Cre-enabled and tetracycline-inducible transgenic system for conditional, tissue-specific expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines (CETI-PIC3). This binary transgenic system permits the stoichiometric co-expression of proteins Tumor necrosis factor a (Tnfa), Interleukin-1 beta (Il1b) and Interferon gamma (Ifng1), and H2B-GFP fluorescent reporter in a dose-dependent manner. Furthermore, cytokine misexpression is enabled only in tissue domains that can be defined by Cre recombinase expression. We have validated this system in zebrafish using an insulin:cre line. In doubly transgenic fish, quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction demonstrated increased expression levels of tnfa, il1b and ifng1 mRNA. Moreover, specific expression in pancreatic β cells was demonstrated by both Tnfa immunofluorescence and GFP fluorescence. Cytokine-overexpressing islets elicited specific responses: β cells exhibited increased expression of genes associated with reactive oxidative species-mediated stress and endoplasmic reticulum stress, surveilling and infiltrating macrophages were increased, and β cell death was promoted. This powerful and versatile model system can be used for modeling, analysis and therapy development of diseases with an underlying inflammatory etiology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberdmm042556
JournalDMM Disease Models and Mechanisms
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2020


  • Beta cell
  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation
  • Pancreas
  • Zebrafish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Immunology and Microbiology (miscellaneous)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

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