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Mouse carrying a knock-out mutation of the Qpct-gene

Imported: 13 Feb '17 | Published: 11 Oct '16

USPTO - Utility Patents

Abstract

The present invention provides a knock-out non-human animal, in particular a mouse carrying a Qpct knock-out mutation. The present invention additionally provides the respective cells and cell lines and methods and compositions for evaluating agents that affect Qpct, for use in compositions for the treatment of Qpct-related diseases.

Description

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority from U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 61/020,784 filed on Jan. 14, 2008, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

INCORPORATION-BY-REFERENCE OF SEQUENCE LISTING

The Sequence Listing, which is a part of the present disclosure, includes a computer readable form and a written sequence listing comprising nucleotide and/or amino acid sequences of the present invention. The sequence listing information recorded in computer readable form is identical to the written sequence listing. The subject matter of the Sequence Listing is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to knock-out animals, in particular mouse models having a knock-out mutation of the Qpct gene.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Qpct (i.e. glutaminyl peptide cyclotransferase), also termed glutaminyl cyclase (QC, EC 2.3.2.5) catalyzes the intramolecular cyclization of N-terminal glutamine residues into pyroglutamic acid (5-oxo-proline, pGlu*) under liberation of ammonia and the intramolecular cyclization of N-terminal glutamate residues into pyroglutamic acid under liberation of water.

Glutaminyl cyclase (QC, EC 2.3.2.5) catalyzes the intramolecular cyclization of N-terminal glutamine residues into pyroglutamic acid (pGlu*) liberating ammonia. A QC was first isolated by Messer from the Latex of the tropical plant Carica papaya in 1963 (Messer, M. 1963 Nature 4874, 1299). 24 years later, a corresponding enzymatic activity was discovered in animal pituitary (Busby, W. H. J. et al. 1987 J Biol Chem 262, 8532-8536; Fischer, W. H. and Spiess, J. 1987 Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 84, 3628-3632). For the mammalian QC, the conversion of Gln into pGlu by QC could be shown for the precursors of TRH and GnRH (Busby, W. H. J. et al. 1987 J Biol Chem 262, 8532-8536; Fischer, W. H. and Spiess, J. 1987 Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 84, 3628-3632). In addition, initial localization experiments of QC revealed a co-localization with its putative products of catalysis in bovine pituitary, further improving the suggested function in peptide hormone synthesis (Bockers, T. M. et al. 1995 J Neuroendocrinol 7, 445-453). In contrast, the physiological function of the plant QC is less clear. In case of the enzyme from C. papaya, a role in the plant defense against pathogenic microorganisms was suggested (El Moussaoui, A. et al. 2001 Cell Mol Life Sci 58, 556-570). Putative QCs from other plants were identified by sequence comparisons (Dahl, S. W. et al. 2000 Protein Expr Purif 20, 27-36). The physiological function of these enzymes, however, is still ambiguous.

The QCs known from plants and animals show a strict specificity for L-Glutamine in the N-terminal position of the substrates and their kinetic behavior was found to obey the Michaelis-Menten equation (Pohl, T. et al. 1991 Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 88, 10059-10063; Consalvo, A. P. et al. 1988 Anal Biochem 175, 131-138; Gololobov, M. Y. et al. 1996 Biol Chem Hoppe Seyler 377, 395-398). A comparison of the primary structures of the QCs from C. papaya and that of the highly conserved QC from mammals, however, did not reveal any sequence homology (Dahl, S. W. et al. 2000 Protein Expr Purif 20, 27-36). Whereas the plant QCs appear to belong to a new enzyme family (Dahl, S. W. et al. 2000 Protein Expr Purif 20, 27-36), the mammalian QCs were found to have a pronounced sequence homology to bacterial aminopeptidases (Bateman, R. C. et al. 2001 Biochemistry 40, 11246-11250), leading to the conclusion that the QCs from plants and animals have different evolutionary origins.

EP 02 011 349.4 discloses polynucleotides encoding insect glutaminyl cyclase, as well as polypeptides encoded thereby. This application further provides host cells comprising expression vectors comprising polynucleotides of the invention. Isolated polypeptides and host cells comprising insect QC are useful in methods of screening for agents that reduce glutaminyl cyclase activity. Such agents are described as useful as pesticides.

The subject matter of the present invention is particularly useful in the field of Qpct-related diseases, one example of those being Alzheimer's Disease. Alzheimer's disease (AD) is characterized by abnormal accumulation of extracellular amyloidotic plaques closely associated with dystrophic neurones, reactive astrocytes and microglia (Terry, R. D. and Katzman, R. 1983 Ann Neurol 14, 497-506; Glenner, G. G. and Wong, C. W. 1984 Biochem Biophys Res Comm 120, 885-890; Intagaki, S. et al. 1989 J Neuroimmunol 24, 173-182; Funato, H. et al. 1998 Am J Pathol 152, 983-992; Selkoe, D. J. 2001 Physiol Rev 81, 741-766). Amyloid-beta (abbreviated as Aβ) peptides are the primary components of senile plaques and are considered to be directly involved in the pathogenesis and progression of Aβ, a hypothesis supported by genetic studies (Glenner, G. G. and Wong, C. W. 1984 Biochem Biophys Res Comm 120, 885-890; Borchelt, D. R. et al. 1996 Neuron 17, 1005-1013; Lemere, C. A. et al. 1996 Nat Med 2, 1146-1150; Mann, D. M. and Iwatsubo, T. 1996 Neurodegeneration 5, 115-120; Citron, M. et al. 1997 Nat Med 3, 67-72; Selkoe, D. J. 2001 Physiol Rev 81, 741-766). Aβ is generated by proteolytic processing of the β-amyloid precursor protein (APP) (Kang, J. et al. 1987 Nature 325, 733-736; Selkoe, D. J. 1998 Trends Cell Biol 8, 447-453), which is sequentially cleaved by β-secretase at the N-terminus and by 7-secretase at the C-terminus of Aβ (Haass, C. and Selkoe, D. J. 1993 Cell 75, 1039-1042; Simons, M. et al. 1996 J Neurosci 16 899-908). In addition to the dominant Aβ peptides starting with L-Asp at the N-terminus (Aβ1-42/40), a great heterogeneity of N-terminally truncated forms occurs in senile plaques. Such shortened peptides are reported to be more neurotoxic in vitro and to aggregate more rapidly than the full-length isoforms (Pike, C. J. et al. 1995 J Biol Chem 270, 23895-23898). N-truncated peptides are known to be overproduced in early onset familial Aβ (FAD) subjects (Saido, T. C. et al. 1995 Neuron 14, 457-466; Russo, C, et al. 2000 Nature 405, 531-532), to appear early and to increase with age in Down's syndrome (DS) brains (Russo, C. et al. 1997 FEBS Lett 409, 411-416, Russo, C. et al. 2001 Neurobiol Dis 8, 173-180; Tekirian, T. L. et al. 1998 J Neuropathol Exp Neurol 57, 76-94). Finally, their amount reflects the progressive severity of the disease (Russo, C. et al. 1997 FEBS Lett 409, 411-416; Guntert, A. et al. 2006 Neuroscience 143, 461-475). Additional posttranslational processes may further modify the N-terminus by isomerization or racemization of the aspartate at position 1 and 7 and by cyclization of glutamate at residues 3 and 11. Pyroglutamate-containing isoforms at position 3 [pGlu3Aβ3-40/42] represent the prominent forms—approximately 50% of the total Aβ amount—of the N-truncated species in senile plaques (Mori, H. et al. 1992 J Biol Chem 267, 17082-17086, Saido, T. C. et al. 1995 Neuron 14, 457-466; Russo, C. et al. 1997 FEBS Lett 409, 411-416; Tekirian, T. L. et al. 1998 J Neuropathol Exp Neurol 57, 76-94; Geddes, J. W. et al. 1999 Neurobiol Aging 20, 75-79; Harigaya, Y. et al. 2000 Biochem Biophys Res Commun 276, 422-427) and they are also present in pre-amyloid lesions (Lalowski, M. et al. 1996 J Biol Chem 271, 33623-33631). The accumulation of AβN3(pE) peptides is likely due to the structural modification that enhances aggregation and confers resistance to most amino-peptidases (Saido, T. C. et al. 1995 Neuron 14, 457-466; Tekirian, T. L. et al. 1999 J Neurochem 73, 1584-1589). This evidence provides clues for a pivotal rote of AβN3(pE) peptides in Aβ pathogenesis. However, relatively little is known about their neurotoxicity and aggregation properties (He, W. and Barrow, C. J. 1999 Biochemistry 38, 10871-10877; Tekirian, T. L. et al. 1999 J Neurochem 73, 1584-1589). Moreover, the action of these isoforms on glial cells and the glial response to these peptides are completely unknown, although activated glia is strictly associated to senile plaques and might actively contribute to the accumulation of amyloid deposits. In recent studies the toxicity, aggregation properties and catabolism of Aβ1-42, Aβ1-40, [pGlu3]Aβ3-42, [pGlu3]Aβ3-40, [pGlu11]Aβ11-42 and [pGlu11]Aβ11-40 peptides were investigated in neuronal and glial cell cultures, and it was shown that pyroglutamate modification exacerbates the toxic properties of Aβ-peptides and also inhibits their degradation by cultured astrocytes. Shirotani et al. investigated the generation of [pGlu3]Aβ peptides in primary cortical neurons infected by Sindbis virus in vitro. They constructed amyloid precursor protein complementary DNAs, which encoded a potential precursor for [pGlu3]Aβ by amino acid substitution and deletion. For one artificial precursor starting with a N-terminal glutamine residue instead of glutamate in the natural precursor, a spontaneous conversion or an enzymatic conversion by glutaminyl cyclase to pyroglutamate was suggested. The cyclization mechanism of N-terminal glutamate at position 3 in the natural precursor of [pGlu3]Aβ was neither determined in vitro, in situ nor in vivo (Shirotani, K. et al. 2002 NeuroSci Lett 327, 25-28).

Thus, there is a clear need in the art for the provision of knock-out animals, in particular knock-out mice which carry a knock-out mutation in the Qpct gene, preferably wherein this mutation should be provided in both a constitutive and a conditional manner so as to enable exact investigations as to the relevance and potential of the Qpct gene.

The aim of this invention was to develop knock-out animals, i.e. mouse models carrying a constitutive or a conditional knock-out mutation of the Qpct gene, respectively.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention comprises methods and compositions for non-human knock-out, in particular mammalian, models for Qpct-related diseases. Specifically, the present invention comprises non-human animal models that have a knock-out mutation in the Qpct gene, resulting in the knock-out of Qpct.

Another aspect of the present invention comprises methods and compositions for screening for Qpct inhibitors/effectors.

Additionally, the present invention comprises methods and compositions for the treatment and/or prevention of Qpct-related diseases, particularly methods and compositions that inhibit or promote Qpct.

Accordingly, it is an object of the invention to provide an animal, which carries a Qpct knock-out mutation.

It is another object of the invention to provide DNA constructs carrying a Qpct knock-out mutation.

It is an additional object of the invention to provide DNA constructs carrying the Qpct knock-out mutation linked to a promoter.

It is a further object of the invention to provide a non-human animal model system, which carries a Qpct knock-out mutation.

It is an additional object of the invention to provide a non-human animal model system to study the in vivo and in vitro regulation and effects of Qpct in specific tissue types.

It is a further object of the invention to provide a non-human animal model system to study the function and concentrations of pyroglutamate-modified hormones, most preferably cytokine and chemokine function.

The present invention provides pharmaceutical compositions for parenteral, enteral or oral administration, comprising at least one effector of QC optionally in combination with customary carriers and/or excipients, wherein said effector of QC was identified by employing the screening methods and Qpct knock-out animals of the present invention.

Other objects and features will be in part apparent and in part pointed out hereinafter.

Other objects, advantages and features of the invention will become apparent upon consideration of the following detailed description.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PRESENTLY PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present invention pertains to

  • 1. A non-human animal comprising cells containing a DNA Qpct gene carrying a knock-out mutation.
  • 2. The non-human animal of item 1, wherein the animal is a rat.
  • 3. The non-human animal of item 1, wherein the animal is a mouse.
  • 4. The non-human animal of any of items 1 to 3, wherein the Qpct gene is of murine origin.
  • 5. The non-human animal of item 4, wherein the murine Qpct gene has the sequence of SEQ ID No. 22.
  • 6. The non-human animal of any of items 1 to 3, wherein the Qpct gene is of human origin.
  • 7. The non-human animal of any of items 1 to 6, wherein the animal is heterozygous for the Qpct gene.
  • 8. The non-human animal of any of items 1 to 6, wherein the animal is homozygous for the Qpct gene.
  • 9. The non-human animal of any of items 1 to 8, wherein the Qpct gene is a recombinant gene.
  • 10. The non-human animal of any of items 1 to 9, wherein the Qpct gene carries a constitutive knock-out mutation.
  • 11. The non-human animal of any of items 1 to 9, wherein the Qpct gene carries a conditional knock-out mutation.
  • 12. The non-human animal of any of items 1 to 11, for use in determining effects of target compounds on Qpct-related disorders and/or diseases.
  • 13. The non-human animal of any of items 1 to 11, wherein the animal carries at least one Qpct allele where exons 4 and 5 are deleted.
  • 14. The non-human animal of any of items 1 to 11 and 13, wherein said Qpct allele has the sequence of SEQ ID No. 23.
  • 15. The non-human animal of item 13 or 14, wherein the animal is a mouse of the mouse line Pbd2.
  • 16. The non-human animal according to any of items 13 to 15, wherein the Qpct gene is operably linked to a tissue-specific promoter.
  • 17. The mouse according to any of items 3 to 16, wherein the mouse demonstrates a phenotype that can be reversed or ameliorated with a Qpct inhibitor.
  • 18. A screening method for biologically active agents that inhibit or promote Qpct production in vivo, comprising:
    • administering a test agent to the non-human animal of any of items 1 to 17, and determining the effect of the agent.
  • 19. The method of item 18, wherein the non-human animal is heterozygous for the Qpct gene.
  • 20. The method of item 18, wherein the non-human animal is homozygous for the Qpct gene.
  • 21. The method according to any of items 18 to 20, wherein the animal is a mouse.
  • 22. The method according to any of items 18 to 21, wherein the Qpct gene is of murine origin.
  • 23. The method according to any of items 18 to 21, wherein the Qpct gene is of human origin.
  • 24. The method according to any of items 18 to 23, wherein the Qpct gene is a recombinant gene.
  • 25. The method of any of items 18 to 24, wherein the recombinant Qpct gene carries a constitutive knock-out mutation.
  • 26. The method of any of items 18 to 24, wherein the Qpct gene carries a conditional knock-out mutation.
  • 27. The method of item 18 for use in target drug discovery.
  • 28. The method of any of items 18 to 27, wherein the animal carries at least one Qpct allele where exons 4 and 5 are deleted.
  • 29. The method of any of items 18 to 28, wherein the animal is a mouse of the mouse line Pbd2.
  • 30. The method of any of items 18 to 29, wherein the Qpct gene is operably linked to a tissue-specific promoter.
  • 31. The method of any of items 18 to 30, wherein the mouse demonstrates a phenotype that can be reversed or ameliorated with a Qpct inhibitor.
  • 32. A cell or cell line derived from the non-human animal according to any of items 1 to 17.
  • 33. A method for screening for therapeutic agents that inhibit or promote Qpct activity comprising
    • (a) administering test agents to the mouse of any of items 3 to 17
    • (b) evaluating the effects of the test agent on the phenotype of the mouse, and
    • (c) selecting a test agent which inhibits or promotes Qpct activity.
  • 34. A method of treatment or prevention of a Qpct-related disease comprising
    • (a) administering the selected test agent of item 33; and
    • (b) monitoring the patient for a decreased clinical index for Qpct-related diseases.
  • 35. The method of item 34 wherein the Qpct-related disease is Alzheimer's disease.
  • 36. The method of item 34 wherein the Qpct-related disease is atherosclerosis or restenosis.
  • 37. A method for analysing the disease-related physiological function of Qpct catalysis with regard to pyroglutamate-peptide formation comprising
    • (a) administering of test agents to the mouse of any of items 3 to 17
    • (b) evaluating the pyroglutamate-peptide concentration and effects of the test agent on the phenotype of the mouse, and
    • (c) selecting a test agent which inhibits or promotes pyroglutamate-peptide activity.
  • 38. A pharmaceutical composition comprising the selected test agent of item 34.
  • 39. Use of a test agent as selected according to item 33 for the preparation of a medicament for the treatment and/or prevention of a Qpct-related disease.
  • 40. Modified cell comprising a Qpct-knockout gene for use in the production of compounds, which would be negatively affected by Qpct.
  • 41. Use of the non-human animal, according to any of items 1 to 17 or the cell according to item 32 or 40, for the provision of models with Qpct expression in specific tissue and/or particular points in time only.
  • 42. A screening method for biologically active compounds that inhibit or promote Qpct activity in vivo comprising steps of:
    • i) administering a test compound to a non-human animal model, which is specific for the treatment of at least one disease selected from Mild Cognitive Impairment, Alzheimer's disease, neurodegeneration in Down Syndrome, Familial Danish Dementia, Familial British Dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, restenosis, and pancreatitis,
    • ii) determining the effect of the test compound in said non-human animal model;
    • iii) compare the effect of the test compound in said non-human animal model with the effect of the Qpct gene disruption in the Qpct knockout animals according to any one of items 1 to 17, and
    • iv) select test compounds that in said non-human animal model alleviate the specific disease similar to the effect of the Qpct gene disruption in the Qpct knockout animals according to any one of items 1 to 17.
  • 43. The screening method of item 42, wherein said non-human animal model is specific for a diseases selected from the group consisting of Mild Cognitive Impairment, Alzheimer's disease, neurodegeneration in Down Syndrome, Familial Danish Dementia and Familial British Dementia.
  • 44. The screening method of item 43, wherein said non-human animal model is specific for Alzheimer's disease.
  • 45. The screening method of any of items 42 to 44, wherein said animal model is selected from the group consisting of PDAPP, Tg2576, APP23, TgCRND8, PSEN1M146V or PSEN1M146L, PSAPP, APPDDutch, BRI-A□40 and BRI-A□42, JNPL3, TauP301S, TauV337M, TauR406W, rTg4510, Htau, TAPP and 3×TgAD.
  • 46. The screening method of any of items 42 to 45, wherein the effect of the test compounds is the lowering of the [pGlu3]A□3-40/42/43 or [pGlu11]A□11-40/42/43 peptides.
  • 47. The screening method of any of items 42 to 46, wherein the effect of the test compounds is the lowering of the [pGlu3]A□3-40 peptides.
  • 48. The screening method of any of items 42 to 47, wherein the effect of the test compounds is the lowering of the [pGlu3]A□3-42 peptides.
  • 49. The screening method of item 42, wherein said non-human animal model is specific for a diseases selected from the group consisting of rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, restenosis, and pancreatitis.
  • 50. The screening method of item 49, wherein said non-human animal model is specific for rheumatoid arthritis.
  • 51. The screening method of item 49, wherein said non-human animal model is specific for atherosclerosis.
  • 52. The screening method of any of items 42 and 49 to 50, wherein said animal model is selected from the group consisting of the apolipoprotein E knockout mouse model, the thioglycollate-induced inflammation model in mice, the collagen-induced arthritis model in rat and rat models of restenosis.
  • 53. The screening method of any of items 42 and 49 to 51, wherein the effect of the test compounds is the inhibition of the chemotaxis of THP-1 cells.
  • 54. The screening method of any of items 42 and 49 to 51, wherein the effect of the test compounds is the inhibition of the formation of pGlu-MCP-1.
  • 55. A pharmaceutical composition comprising the selected test agent according to any of items 42 to 54.
  • 56. Use of a test agent as selected according to any of items 42 to 54 for the preparation of a medicament for the treatment and/or prevention of a Qpct-related disease.
  • 57. A method of treatment or prevention of a Qpct-related disease comprising
    • (a) administering the selected test agent according to any of items 42 to 54; and
    • (b) monitoring the patient for a decreased clinical index for Qpct-related diseases.
  • 58. The use or method of items 56 or 57, wherein the Qpct-related disease is selected from the group consisting of Mild Cognitive Impairment, Alzheimer's disease, neurodegeneration in Down Syndrome, Familial Danish Dementia and Familial British Dementia.
  • 59. The use or method of any items 56 to 57, wherein the Qpct-related disease is Alzheimer's disease.
  • 60. The use or method of items 56 or 57, wherein the Qpct-related disease is selected from the group consisting of rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, restenosis, and pancreatitis.
  • 61. The use or method of any of items 56, 57 or 60, wherein the Qpct-related disease is rheumatoid arthritis.
  • 62. The use or method of any of items 56, 57 or 60, wherein the Qpct-related disease is atherosclerosis.

The non-human knock-out animal, in particular the knock-out mouse as described above, is useful inter alia in the following aspects:

    • screening assays for Qpct-effectors/inhibitors
    • drug development, in particular screening for targets, target specificity and/or off target effects of drug candidates,
    • provision of a disease model,
    • recovery of modified cells, e.g. for use in the production of compounds which would be negatively affected by Qpct. “Negatively affected” in this context encompasses e.g. a decreased or slowed-down yield/production rate and/or a decreased affectivity and/or an increased antigenicity. Such compounds could be e.g. antibodies, peptides, proteins etc.
    • target discovery, e.g. by determining the differences detected in the above knock-out animal like up- or down-regulation of a specific substance which could become a suitable drug target,
    • provision of an assay to determine the importance of certain polypeptides, e.g. Aβ peptide or TRH etc.,
    • providing the basis for “clean” transgenic models, e.g. with a controlled expression of Qpct only in specific cells/tissues and/or organs or only at specific points in time;
    • optimization of peptide formulation and protective groups without being limited thereto.

The following definitions and methods are provided to better define the present invention and to guide those of ordinary skill in the art in the practice of the present invention. Unless otherwise noted, terms are to be understood according to conventional usage by those of ordinary skill in the relevant art.

The term “knock-out animal” means a non-human animal, usually a mammal, which carries one or more genetic manipulations leading to deactivation of one or more genes.

The term “construct” means a recombinant nucleic acid, generally recombinant DNA, that has been generated for the purpose of the expression of a specific nucleotide sequence(s), or is to be used in the construction of other recombinant nucleotide sequences. The recombinant nucleic acid can encode e.g. a chimeric or humanized polypeptide.

Polypeptide here pertains to all possible amino acid sequences comprising more than 10 amino acids.

The term “operably linked” means that a DNA sequence and a regulatory sequence(s) are connected in such a way as to permit gene expression when the appropriate molecules (e.g., transcriptional activator proteins) are bound to the regulatory sequence(s).

The term “operatively inserted” means that a nucleotide sequence of interest is positioned adjacent a nucleotide sequence that directs transcription and translation of the introduced nucleotide sequence of interest.

Knock-Out Genes

The Qpct polynucleotides comprising the gene of the present invention include Qpct cDNA and shall also include modified Qpct cDNA. As used herein, a “modification” of a nucleic acid can include one or several nucleotide additions, deletions, or substitutions with respect to a reference sequence. A modification of a nucleic acid can include substitutions that do not change the encoded amino acid sequence due to the degeneracy of the genetic code, or which result in a conservative substitution. Such modifications can correspond to variations that are made deliberately, such as the addition of a Poly A tail, or variations which occur as mutations during nucleic acid replication.

As employed herein, the term “substantially the same nucleotide sequence” refers to DNA having sufficient identity to the reference polynucleotide, such that it will hybridize to the reference nucleotide under moderately stringent, or higher stringency, hybridization conditions. DNA having “substantially the same nucleotide sequence” as the reference nucleotide sequence, can have an identity ranging from at least 60% to at least 95% with respect to the reference nucleotide sequence.

The phrase “moderately stringent hybridization” refers to conditions that permit a target-nucleic acid to bind a complementary nucleic acid. The hybridized nucleic acids will generally have an identity within a range of at least about 60% to at least about 95%. Moderately stringent conditions are conditions equivalent to hybridization in 50% formamide, 5× Denhart's solution, 5× saline sodium phosphate EDTA buffer (SSPE), 0.2% SDS (Aldrich) at about 42° C., followed by washing in 0.2×SSPE, 0.2% SDS (Aldrich), at about 42° C.

High stringency hybridization refers to conditions that permit hybridization of only those nucleic acid sequences that form stable hybrids in 0.018M NaCl at about 65° C., for example, if a hybrid is not stable in 0.018M NaCl at about 65° C., it will not be stable under high stringency conditions, as contemplated herein. High stringency conditions can be provided, for example, by hybridization in 50% formamide, 5× Denhart's solution, 5×SSPE, 0.2% SDS at about 42° C., followed by washing in 0.1×SSPE, and 0.1% SDS at about 65° C.

Other suitable moderate stringency and high stringency hybridization buffers and conditions are well known to those of skill in the art and are described, for example, in Sambrook et al., Molecular Cloning: A Laboratory Manual, 2nd ed., Cold Spring Harbor Press, Plainview, N.Y. (1989); and Ausubel et al. (Current Protocols in Molecular Biology (Supplement 47), John Wiley & Sons, New York (1999)).

Nucleotide and/or amino acid sequence identity percent (%) is understood as the percentage of nucleotide or amino acid residues that are identical with nucleotide or amino acid residues in a candidate sequence in comparison to a reference sequence when the two sequences are aligned. To determine percent identity, sequences are aligned and if necessary, gaps are introduced to achieve the maximum percent sequence identity. Sequence alignment procedures to determine percent identity are well known to those of skill in the art. Often publicly available computer software such as BLAST, BLAST2, ALIGN2 or Megalign (DNASTAR) software is used to align sequences. Those skilled in the art can determine appropriate parameters for measuring alignment, including any algorithms needed to achieve maximal alignment over the full-length of the sequences being compared. When sequences are aligned, the percent sequence identity of a given sequence A to, with, or against a given sequence B (which can alternatively be phrased as a given sequence A that has or comprises a certain percent sequence identity to, with, or against a given sequence B) can be calculated as: percent sequence identity ═X/Y100, where X is the number of residues scored as identical matches by the sequence alignment program's or algorithm's alignment of A and B and Y is the total number of residues in B. If the length of sequence A is not equal to the length of sequence B, the percent sequence identity of A to B will not equal the percent sequence identity of B to A.

The amino acid sequence encoded by the knock-out gene of the present invention can be a Qpct sequence from a human or the Qpct homologue from any species, preferably from a murine species. The amino acid sequence encoded by the knock-out gene of the present invention can also be a fragment of the Qpct amino acid sequence so long as the fragment retains some or all of the function of the full-length Qpct sequence. The sequence may also be a modified Qpct sequence. Individual substitutions, deletions or additions, which alter, add or delete a single amino acid or a small percentage of amino acids (typically less than 10%, more typically less than 5%, and still more typically less than 1%.) A “modification” of the amino acid sequence encompasses conservative substitutions of the amino acid sequence. Conservative substitution tables providing functionally similar amino acids are well known in the art. The following six groups each contain amino acids that are conservative substitutions for one another:

    • 1) Alanine (A), Serine (S), Threonine (T);
    • 2) Aspartic acid (D), Glutamic acid (E);
    • 3) Asparagine (N), Glutamine (Q);
    • 4) Arginine (R), Lysine (K);
    • 5) Isoleucine (1), Leucine (L), Methionine (M), Valine (V); and
    • 6) Phenylalanine (F), Tyrosine (Y), Tryptophan (W).

Other minor modifications are included within the sequence so long as the polypeptide retains some or all of the structural and/or functional characteristics of a Qpct polypeptide. Exemplary structural or functional characteristics include sequence identity or substantial similarity, antibody reactivity, the presence of conserved structural domains such as RNA binding domains or acidic domains.

DNA Constructs and Vectors

The invention further provides a DNA construct comprising the Qpct knock-out gene as described above. As used herein, the term “DNA construct” refers to a specific arrangement of genetic elements in a DNA molecule. In addition to human Qpct, or mutant forms thereof, the invention also provides a DNA construct using polypeptides from other species as well as Qpct mutant non-human mammals expressing BACE1 from non-human species.

If desired, the DNA constructs can be engineered to be operatively linked to appropriate expression elements such as promoters or enhancers to allow expression of a genetic element in the DNA construct in an appropriate cell or tissue. The use of the expression control mechanisms allows for the targeted delivery and expression of the gene of interest. For example, the constructs of the present invention may be constructed using an expression cassette which includes in the 5′-3′ direction of transcription, a transcriptional and translational initiation region associated with gene expression in brain tissue, DNA encoding a mutant or wild-type Qpct protein, and a transcriptional and translational termination region functional in the host animal. One or more introns also can be present. The transcriptional initiation region can be endogenous to the host animal or foreign or exogenous to the host animal.

The DNA constructs described herein may be incorporated into vectors for propagation or transfection into appropriate cells to generate Qpct overexpressing mutant non-human mammals and are also comprised by the present invention. One skilled in the art can select a vector based on desired properties, for example, for production of a vector in a particular cell such as a mammalian cell or a bacterial cell.

Vectors can contain a regulatory element that provides tissue specific or inducible expression of an operatively linked nucleic acid. One skilled in the art can readily determine an appropriate tissue-specific promoter or enhancer that allows expression of Qpct polypeptides in a desired tissue. It should be noted that tissue-specific expression as described herein does not require a complete absence of expression in tissues other than the preferred tissue. Instead, “cell-specific” or “tissue-specific” expression refers to a majority of the expression of a particular gene of interest in the preferred cell type or tissue.

Any of a variety of inducible promoters or enhancers can also be included in the vector for expression of a Qpct polypeptide or nucleic acid that can be regulated. Such inducible systems, include, for example, tetracycline inducible System (Gossen & Bizard, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 89:5547-5551 (1992); Gossen et al., Science, 268:17664769 (1995); Clontech, Palo Alto, Calif.); metallothionein promoter induced by heavy metals; insect steroid hormone responsive to ecdysone or related steroids such as muristerone (No et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 93:3346-3351 (1996); Yao et al., Nature, 366:476-479 (1993); Invitrogen, Carlsbad, Calif.); mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) induced by steroids such as glucocorticoid and estrogen (Lee et al., Nature, 294:228-232 (1981); and heat shock promoters inducible by temperature changes; the rat neuron specific enolase gene promoter (Forss-Petter, et al., Neuron 5; 197-197 (1990)); the human β-actin gene promoter (Ray, et al., Genes and Development (1991) 5:2265-2273); the human platelet derived growth factor B (PDGF-B) chain gene promoter (Sasahara, et al., Cell (1991) 64:217-227); the rat sodium channel gene promoter (Maue, et al., Neuron (1990) 4:223-231); the human copper-zinc superoxide dismutase gene promoter (Ceballos-Picot, et al., Brain Res. (1991) 552:198-214); and promoters for members of the mammalian POU-domain regulatory gene family (Xi et al., (1989) Nature 340:35-42).

Regulatory elements, including promoters or enhancers, can be constitutive or regulated, depending upon the nature of the regulation, and can be regulated in a variety of tissues, or one or a few specific tissues. The regulatory sequences or regulatory elements are operatively linked to one of the polynucleotide sequences of the invention such that the physical and functional relationship between the polynucleotide sequence and the regulatory sequence allows transcription of the polynucleotide sequence. Vectors useful for expression in eukaryotic cells can include, for example, regulatory elements including the CAG promoter, the SV40 early promoter, the cytomegalovirus (CMV) promoter, the mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) steroid-inducible promoter, Pgtf Moloney marine leukemia virus (MMLV) promoter, thy-1 promoter and the like.

If desired, the vector can contain a selectable marker. As used herein, a “selectable marker” refers to a genetic element that provides a selectable phenotype to a cell in which the selectable marker has been introduced. A selectable marker is generally a gene whose gene product provides resistance to an agent that inhibits cell growth or kills a cell. A variety of selectable markers can be used in the DNA constructs of the invention, including, for example, Neo, Hyg, hisD, Gpt and Ble genes, as described, for example in Ausubel et al. (Current Protocols in Molecular Biology (Supplement 47), John Wiley & Sons, New York (1999)) and U.S. Pat. No. 5,981,830. Drugs useful for selecting for the presence of a selectable marker include, for example, G418 for Neo, hygromycin for Hyg, histidinol for hisD, xanthine for Gpt, and bleomycin for Ble (see Ausubel et al, supra, (1999); U.S. Pat. No. 5,981,830). DNA constructs of the invention can incorporate a positive selectable marker, a negative selectable marker, or both (see, for example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,981,830).

Non-Human Knock-out Animals

The invention primarily provides a non-human knock-out animal whose genome comprises a knock-out Qpct gene. The DNA fragment can be integrated into the genome of an animal by any method known to those skilled in the art. The DNA molecule containing the desired gene sequence can be introduced into pluripotent cells, such as ES cells, by any method that will permit the introduced molecule to undergo recombination at its regions of homology. Techniques that can be used include, but are not limited to, calcium phosphate/DNA co-precipitates, microinjection of DNA into the nucleus, electroporation, bacterial protoplast fusion with intact cells, transfection, and polycations, (e.g., polybrene, polyornithine, etc.) The DNA can be single or double stranded DNA, linear or circular. (See for example, Hogan et al., Manipulating the Mouse Embryo: A Laboratory Manual Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (1986); Hogan et al., Manipulating the Mouse Embryo: A Laboratory Manual, second ed., Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (1994), U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,602,299; 5,175,384; 6,066,778; 4,873,191 and 6,037,521; retrovirus mediated gene transfer into germ lines (Van der Putten et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 82:6148-6152 (1985)); gene targeting in embryonic stem cells (Thompson et al., Cell 56:313-321 (1989)); electroporation of embryos (Lo, Mol. Cell. Biol. 3:1803-1814 (1983)); and sperm-mediated gene transfer (Lavitrano et al., Cell 57:717-723 (1989))).

For example, the zygote is a good target for microinjection, and methods of microinjecting zygotes are well known (see U.S. Pat. No. 4,873,191).

Embryonal cells at various developmental stages can also be used to introduce genes for the production of knock-out animals. Different methods are used depending on the stage of development of the embryonal cell. Such transfected embryonic stem (ES) cells can thereafter colonize an embryo following their introduction into the blastocoele of a blastocyst-stage embryo and contribute to the germ line of the resulting chimeric animal (reviewed in Jaenisch, Science 240:1468-1474 (1988)). Prior to the introduction of transfected ES cells into the blastocoele, the transfected ES cells can be subjected to various selection protocols to enrich the proportion of ES cells that have integrated the knock-out gene if the knock-out gene provides a means for such selection. Alternatively, PCR can be used to screen for ES cells that have integrated the knock-out.

In addition, retroviral infection can also be used to introduce knock-out genes into a non-human animal. The developing non-human embryo can be cultured in vitro to the blastocyst stage. During this time, the blastomeres can be targets for retroviral infection (Jaenisch, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 73:1260-1264 (1976)). Efficient infection of the blastomeres is obtained by enzymatic treatment to remove the zona pellucida (Hogan et al., supra, 1986). The viral vector system used to introduce the knock-out is typically a replication-defective retrovirus carrying the knock-out (Jahner et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 82:6927-6931 (1985); Van der Putten et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 82:6148-6152 (1985)). Transfection is easily and efficiently obtained by culturing the blastomeres on a monolayer of virus-producing cells (Van der Putten, supra, 1985; Stewart et al., EMBO J. 6:383-388 (1987)). Alternatively, infection can be performed at a later stage. Virus or virus-producing cells can be injected into the blastocoele (Jahner D. et al., Nature 298:623-628 (1982)). Most of the founders will be mosaic for the knock-out gene since incorporation occurs only in a subset of cells, which form the knock-out animal. Further, the founder can contain various retroviral insertions of the knock-out gene at different positions in the genome, which generally will segregate in the offspring. In addition, knock-out genes may be introduced into the germline by intrauterine retroviral infection of the mid-gestation embryo (Jahner et al., supra, 1982). Additional means of using retroviruses or retroviral vectors to create knock-out animals known to those of skill in the art involves the micro-injection of retroviral particles or mitomycin C-treated cells producing retrovirus into the perivitelline space of fertilized eggs or early embryos (WO 90/08832 (1990); Haskell and Bowen, Mal. Reprod. Dev. 40:386 (1995)).

Any other technology to introduce knock-out genes into a non-human animal, e.g. the knock-in or the rescue technologies can also be used to solve the problem of the present invention. The knock-in technology is well known in the art as described e.g. in Casas et al. (2004) Am J Pathol 165, 1289-1300.

Once the founder animals are produced, they can be bred, inbred, outbred, or crossbred to produce colonies of the particular animal. Examples of such breeding strategies include, but are not limited to: outbreeding of founder animals with more than one integration site in order to establish separate lines; inbreeding of separate lines in order to produce compound transgenics that express the transgene at higher levels because of the effects of additive expression of each transgene; crossing of heterozygous transgenic mice to produce mice homozygous for a given integration site in order to both augment expression and eliminate the need for screening of animals by DNA analysis; crossing of separate homozygous lines to produce compound heterozygous or homozygous lines; breeding animals to different inbred genetic backgrounds so as to examine effects of modifying alleles on expression of the transgene and the effects of expression.

The knock-out animals are screened and evaluated to select those animals having the phenotype of interest. Initial screening can be performed using, for example, Southern blot analysis or PCR techniques to analyze animal tissues to verify that integration of the knock-out gene has taken place. The level of mRNA expression of the knock-out gene in the tissues of the knock-out animals can also be assessed using techniques which include, but are not limited to, Northern blot analysis of tissue samples obtained from the animal, in situ hybridization analysis, and reverse transcriptase-PCR (rt-PCR). Samples of the suitable tissues can be evaluated immunocytochemically using antibodies specific for Qpct or with a tag such as EGFP. The knock-out non-human mammals can be further characterized to identify those animals having a phenotype useful in methods of the invention. In particular, knock-out non-human mammals overexpressing Qpct can be screened using the methods disclosed herein. For example, tissue sections can be viewed under a fluorescent microscope for die present of fluorescence, indicating the presence of the reporter gene.

Another method to affect tissue specific expression is through the use of tissue-specific promoters. Non-limiting examples of suitable tissue-specific promoters include the albumin promoter (liver-specific; Pinkert et al., (1987) Genes Dev. 1:268-277); lymphoid-specific promoters (Calame and Eaton (1988) Adv. Immunol. 43:235-275), in particular promoters of T cell receptors (Winoto and Baltimore (1989) EMBO J. 8:729-733) and immunoglobulins (Banerji et al., (1983) Cell 33:729-740; Queen and Baltimore (1983) Cell 33:741-748), neuron-specific promoters (e.g., the neurofilament promoter, the Thy-1 promoter or the Bri-protein promoter; Sturchler-Pierrat et al., (1997) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 94:13287-13292, Byrne and Ruddle (1989) PNAS 86:5473-5477), pancreas-specific promoters (Edlund et al., (1985) Science 230:912-916), cardiac specific expression (alpha myosin heavy chain promoter, Subramaniam, A, Jones W K, Gulick J, Wert S, Neumann J, and Robbins J. Tissue-specific regulation of the alpha-myosin heavy chain gene promoter in transgenic mice. J Biol Chem 266: 24613-24620, 1991), and mammary gland-specific promoters (e.g., milk whey promoter; U.S. Pat. No. 4,873,316 and European Application Publication No. 264,166).

The invention further provides an isolated cell containing a DNA construct of the invention. The DNA construct can be introduced into a cell by any of the well-known transfection methods (Sambrook et al., Molecular Cloning: A Laboratory Manual, 2nd ed., Cold Spring Harbor Press, Plainview, N.Y. (1989); Ausubel et al., supra, (1999)). Alternatively, the cell can be obtained by isolating a cell from a mutant non-human mammal created as described herein. Thus, the invention provides a cell isolated from a Qpct mutant non-human mammal of the invention, in particular, a Qpct mutant knock-out mouse. The cells can be obtained from a homozygous Qpct mutant non-human mammal such as a mouse or a heterozygous Qpct mutant non-human mammal such as a mouse.

Effectors

Effectors, as that term is used herein, are defined as molecules that bind to enzymes and increase (i.e. promote) or decrease (i.e. inhibit) their activity in vitro and/or in vivo. Some enzymes have binding sites for molecules that affect their catalytic activity; a stimulator molecule is called an activator. Enzymes may even have multiple sites for recognizing more than one activator or inhibitor. Enzymes can detect concentrations of a variety of molecules and use that information to vary their own activities.

Effectors can modulate enzymatic activity because enzymes can assume both active and inactive conformations: activators are positive effectors, inhibitors are negative effectors. Effectors act not only at the active sites of enzymes, but also at regulatory sites, or allosteric sites, terms used to emphasize that the regulatory site is an element of the enzyme distinct from the catalytic site and to differentiate this form of regulation from competition between substrates and inhibitors at the catalytic site (Darnell, J., Lodish, H. and Baltimore, D. 1990, Molecular Cell Biology 2″d Edition, Scientific American Books, New York, page 63).

Peptides

If peptides or amino acids are mentioned in the present invention, each amino acid residue is represented by a one-letter or a three-letter designation, corresponding to the trivial name of the amino acid, in accordance with the following conventional list:

Amino Acid One-Letter Symbol Three-Letter Symbol Alanine A Ala Arginine R Arg Asparagine N Asn Aspartic acid D Asp Cysteine C Cys Glutamine Q Gln Glutamic acid E Glu Glycine G Gly Histidine H His Isoleucine I Ile Leucine L Leu Lysine K Lys Methionine M Met Phenylalanine F Phe Proline P Pro Serine S Ser Threonine T Thr Tryptophan W Trp Tyrosine Y Tyr Valine V Val

QC

The terms “QC” or “Qpct” as used herein are both intended to refer to the same and comprise glutaminyl cyclase (QC), i.e. glutaminyl-peptidecyclotransferase (EC 2.3.2.5). Preferably, the Qpct as used herein is a mammalian Qpct, more preferably a non-human Qpct, most preferably a murine Qpct.

QC-Like Enzymes

QC and QC-like enzymes have identical or similar enzymatic activity, further defined as QC activity. In this regard, QC-like enzymes can fundamentally differ in their molecular structure from QC.

The term “QC activity” as used herein is defined as intramolecular cyclization of N-terminal glutamine residues into pyroglutamic acid (pGlu*) or of N-terminal L-homoglutamine or L-β-homoglutamine to a cyclic pyro-homoglutamine derivative under liberation of ammonia. See schemes 1 and 2.

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The term “EC” as used herein comprises the side activity of QC and QC-like enzymes as glutamate cyclase (EC), further defined as EC activity.

The term “EC activity” as used herein is defined as intramolecular cyclization of N-terminal glutamate residues into pyroglutamic acid (pGlu*) by QC. See scheme 3.

The term “metal-dependent enzyme” as used herein is defined as enzyme(s) that require a bound metal ion in order to fulfil their catalytic function and/or require a bound metal ion in order to form the catalytically active structure.

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The term “Qpct-related disease” as used herein refers to all those diseases, disorders or conditions that are modulated by Qpct.

Assays and Identification of Therapeutic Agents

The methods and compositions of the present invention are particularly useful in the evaluation of effectors of Qpct and for the development of drugs and therapeutic agents for the treatment and prevention of amyloid-associated diseases such as Mild Cognitive Impairment, Alzheimer's disease, neurodegeneration in Down Syndrome, Familial Danish Dementia and Familial British Dementia.

Moreover, the methods and compositions of the present invention are also useful in the evaluation of effectors of Qpct and for the development of drugs and therapeutic agents for the treatment and prevention of chronic and acute inflammatory diseases, e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, restenosis, pancreatitis.

The knock-out animal or the cells of the knock-out animal of the invention can be used in a variety of screening assays. For example, any of a variety of potential agents suspected of affecting Qpct and amyloid accumulation, as well as the appropriate antagonists and blocking therapeutic agents, can be screened by administration to the knock-out animal and assessing the effect of these agents upon the function and phenotype of the cells and on the phenotype, i.e. the neurological phenotype, of the knock-out animals.

Behavioral studies may also be used to test potential therapeutic agents, such as those studies designed to assess motor skills, learning and memory deficits. An example of such a test is the Morris Water maze (Morris (1981) Learn Motivat 12:239-260). Additionally, behavioral studies may include evaluations of locomotor activity such as with the rotor-rod and the open field.

A preferred embodiment of the present invention is directed to an in vivo animal model for examining the phenotypic consequences resulting from heterozygous or homozygous deficiency of the Qpct gene, wherein the animal model is a mammal having a heterozygous or homozygous disruption of the Qpct gene.

In a further preferred embodiment of the present invention, the Qpct gene is of human origin, more preferably of murine origin. The Qpct gene according to the present invention can also be a recombinant gene.

Most preferred according to the present invention is the murine Qpct gene of SEQ ID No. 22. In some embodiments, an animal of the model comprises a sequence having at least about 80% sequence identity to SEQ ID NO: 22, where the Qpct gene is disrupted. As an example, an animal of the model comprises a sequence having at least about 85%, at least about 90%, at least about 95%, or at least about 99% sequence identity to SEQ ID NO: 22, wherein the Qpct gene is disrupted. As another example, a an animal of the model can comprise a nucleotide sequence that hybridizes under stringent conditions to SEQ ID NO: 22 over the entire length of SEQ ID NO: 22, wherein the Qpct gene is disrupted. As a further example, an animal of the model can comprise the complement to any of the above sequences.

The disruption of the murine Qpct gene (e.g., the murine Qpct gene of SEQ ID NO. 22) can, for example, be achieved by gene mutations, which lead to single amino acid deletions or replacements in the Qpct protein. Preferred according to the present invention are mutations in the Qpct gene, which lead to the deletion in the Qpct protein of at least one of the amino acids selected from the group consisting of residues H141 and D160 in exon 3, residues E202 and E203 in exon 4, residue D249 in exon 5 and residue H331 in exon 7. Preferably, sequence variants thereto retain at least one or more of such mutations.

In a further embodiment of the present invention, the disruption of the Qpct gene can also be achieved by deletion of one or more exons. The deletion of any single exon of the Qpct gene can lead to a Qpct gene disruption. Preferred according to the present invention is the deletion of exons 4 and/or 5 of the Qpct gene, more preferably of the murine Qpct gene. Most preferably, the murine Qpct gene has, after deletion of exons 4 and 5, the sequence of SEQ ID NO. 23. In some embodiments, the murine gene comprises a sequence at least about 80%, 85%, 90%, 95%, or 99% identical to SEQ ID NO: 23, in which the Qpct gene is disrupted.

In a further embodiment, an animal of the model comprises SEQ ID NO: 24, which is a fragment of the Qpct DNA sequence, or a sequence having at least about 80%, 85%, 90%, 95%, or 99% identity thereto in which Qpct is disrupted. In a further embodiment, an animal of the model comprises SEQ ID NO: 25, which is a fragment of the Qpct DNA sequence, or a sequence having at least about 80%, 85%, 90%, 95%, or 99% identity thereto in which Qpct is disrupted.

Also provided is an isolated nucleic acid sequence of a Qpct gene, in which Qpct is disrupted. In one embodiment, the isolated nucleic acid comprises SEQ ID NO: 23. In one embodiment, the isolated nucleic acid comprises SEQ ID NO: 24. In one embodiment, the isolated nucleic acid comprises SEQ ID NO: 25. In a further embodiment, the isolated nucleic acid comprises a sequence at least about 80%, 85%, 90%, 95%, or 99% identical to SEQ ID NO: 23, SEQ ID NO: 24, or SEQ ID NO: 25, wherein the Qpct is disrupted.

Any of the polynucleotide molecule sequences described above can be provided in a construct. Constructs of the present invention generally include a promoter functional in an animal of the model, such as a mouse or rat, operably linked to a polynucleotide molecule for a Qpct gene in which the gene is disrupted. One or more additional promoters may also be provided in the recombinant construct.

Since Qpct is involved in a variety of biological, medical or physiological processes or phenomena, including, but not limited to neurodegenerative diseases, e.g. Mild Cognitive Impairment, Alzheimer's disease, neurodegeneration in Down Syndrome, Familial Danish Dementia and Familial British Dementia; and chronic and acute inflammatory diseases, e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, restenosis, pancreatitis, the animal model having heterozygous or homozygous deficiency of the Qpct gene is useful for studying mechanisms and/or etiology of the above-mentioned processes/phenomena. In a particular embodiment, the animal model of the present invention having heterozygous or homozygous deficiency of the Qpct gene will be useful as a mammalian in vivo screening model for studying these and other processes/phenomena.

By “animal model” is meant that an animal sufficiently like humans in its anatomy, physiology, or response to a pathogen to be used in medical research that is used to investigate a physio- or pathological circumstances in question. According to the present invention, an animal model can be an exploratory model, aiming to understand a biological mechanism, e.g., amyloid beta peptide formation, or an explanatory model, aiming to understand a more or less complex biological problem.

The analysis of the physiological function of Qpct in vivo for the development of neurodegenerative diseases, e.g. Mild Cognitive Impairment, Alzheimer's disease, neurodegeneration in Down Syndrome, Familial Danish Dementia and Familial British Dementia; and chronic and acute inflammatory diseases, e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, restenosis, pancreatitis can be performed employing the heterozygous or homozygous Qpct knockout animals of the present invention. An effective screening for Qpct inhibitors, which are useful in the treatment of the aforementioned diseases, could be performed by treating existing animal models for the specific diseases with test compounds and comparing the results of such treatment with the effects of the Qpct gene disruption in the Qpct knockout animals.

Preferred methods for screening for biologically active agents that inhibit or promote Qpct production in vivo thus comprise the following steps:

    • i) administering a test compound to a non-human animal model, which is specific for the treatment of at least one disease selected from Mild Cognitive Impairment, Alzheimer's disease, neurodegeneration in Down Syndrome, Familial Danish Dementia, Familial British Dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, restenosis, and pancreatitis,
    • ii) determining the effect of the test compound;
    • iii) compare the effect of the test compound with the effect of the Qpct gene disruption in the Qpct knockout animal models, and
    • iv) select test compounds that have an efficacy similar to the effect of the Qpct gene disruption on the specific disease.

In particular preferred is the use of this method for screening of Qpct inhibitors.

In a further preferred embodiment, this method is used for the screening of Qpct inhibitors for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease or neurodegeneration in Down syndrome.

In yet another preferred embodiment, this method is used for the screening of Qpct inhibitors for the treatment of Familial British Dementia or Familial Danish Dementia.

Furthermore, this method is preferably used for the screening of Qpct inhibitors for the treatment of a disease selected from rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, restenosis, and pancreatitis.

The efficacy of Qpct-inhibitors for the treatment of Alzheimer's Disease, Familial British Dementia or Familial Danish Dementia and, e.g. neurodegeneration in Down Syndrome can be tested in existing animal models of Alzheimer's disease.

Suitable animal models of Alzheimer's Disease are reviewed in McGowan et al., TRENDS in Genetics, Vol. 22, No. May 2006, pp 281-289, and are selected from PDAPP, Tg2576, APP23, TgCRND8, PSEN1M146V or PSEN1M146L, PSAPP, APPDutch, BRI-Aβ40 and BRI-Aβ42, JNPL3, TauP301S, TauV337M, TauR406W, rTg4510, Htau, TAPP, 3×TgAD, as described below.

PDAPP: First mutant APP transgenic model with robust plaque pathology. Mice express a human APP cDNA with the Indiana mutation (APPV717F). Plaque pathology begins between 6-9 months in hemizygous PDAPP mice. There is synapse loss but no overt cell loss and not NFT pathology is observed. This model has been used widely in vaccination therapy strategies.

Tg2576: Mice express mutant APPSWE under control of the hamster prion promoter. Plaque pathology is observed from 9 months of age. These mice have cognitive deficits but no cell loss or NFT pathology. It is one of the most widely used transgenic models.

APP23: Mice express mutant APPSWE under control of the Thy1 promoter. Prominent cerebrovascular amyloid, amyloid deposits are observed from 6 months of age and some hippocampal neuronal loss is associated with amyloid plaque formation.

TgCRND8: Mice express multiple APP mutations (Swedish plus Indiana). Cognitive deficits coincide with rapid extracellular plaque development at ˜3 months of age. The cognitive deficits can be reversed by Aβ vaccination therapy.

PSEN1M146V or PSEN1M146L (lines 6.2 and 8.9, respectively): These models where the first demonstration in vivo that mutant PSEN1 selectively elevates Aβ42. No overt plaque pathology is observed.

PSAPP (Tg2576×PSEN1M146L, PSEN1-A246E+APPSWE): Bigenic transgenic mice, addition of the mutant PSEN1 transgene markedly accelerated amyloid pathology compared with singly transgenic mutant APP mice, demonstrating that the PSEN1-driven elevation of Aβ42 enhances plaque pathology.

APPDutch: Mice express APP with the Dutch mutation that causes hereditary cerebral hemorrhage with amyloidosis-Dutch type in humans. APPDutch mice develop severe congophilic amyloid angiopathy. The addition of a mutant PSEN1 transgene redistributes the amyloid pathology to the parenchyma indicating differing roles for Aβ40 and Aβ42 in vascular and parenchymal amyloid pathology.

BRI-Aβ40 and BRI-Aβ42: Mice express individual Aβ isoforms without APP over-expression. Only mice expressing Aβ42 develop senile plaques and CAA, whereas BRI-Aβ40 mice do not develop plaques, suggesting that Aβ42 is essential for plaque formation.

JNPL3: Mice express 4R0N MAPT with the P301L mutation. This is the first transgenic model, with marked tangle pathology and cell loss, demonstrating that MAPT alone can cause cellular damage and loss. JNPL3 mice develop motor impairments with age owing to server pathology and motor neutron loss in the spinal cord.

TauP301S: Transgenic mice expressing the shortest isoform of 4R MAPT with the P301S mutation. Homozygous mice develop severe paraparesis at 5-6 months of age with widespread neurofibrillary pathology in the brain and spinal cord and neuronal loss in the spinal cord.

TauV337M: Low level synthesis of 4R MAPT with the V337M mutation ( 1/10 endogenous MAPT) driven by the promoter of platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF). The development of neurofibrillary pathology in these mice suggests the nature of the MAPT rather than absolute MAPT intracellular concentration drives pathology.

TauR406W: Mice expressing 4R human MAPT with the R406W mutation under control of the CAMKII promoter. Mice develop MAPT inclusions in the forebrain from 18 months of age and have impaired associative memory.

rTg4510: Inducible MAPT transgenic mice using the TET-off system. Abnormal MAPT pathology occurs from one month of age. Mice have progressive NFT pathology and severe cell loss. Cognitive deficits are evident from 2.5 months of age. Turning off the transgene improves cognitive performance but NT pathology worsens.

Htau: Transgenic mice expressing human genomic MAPT only (mouse MAPT knocked-out). Htau mice accumulate hyperphosphorylated MAPT form 6 month and develop Thio-5-positive NFT by the time they are 15 months old.

TAPP (Tg2576×JNPL3): Increased MAPT forebrain pathology in TAPP mice compared with JNPL3 suggesting mutant APP and/or Aβ can affect downstream MAPT pathology.

3×TgAD: Triple transgenic model expressing mutant APPSWE, MAPTP301L on a PSEN1M146V ‘knock-in’ background (PSNE1-K1). Mice develop plaques from 6 months and MAPT pathology from the time they are 12 months old, strengthening the hypothesis that APP or Aβ can directly influence neurofibrillary pathology.

Non-human transgenic animals that overexpress Qpct, and which are useful in the screening method described above, are disclosed in WO 2008/087197.

Suitable study designs could be as outlined in the table below. QC inhibitors could be applied via the drinking solution or chow, or any other conventional route of administration, e.g. orally, intravenously or subcutaneously.

TABLE Animal groups for the treatment of animal models of Alzheimer's disease with Qpct-inhibitors Group Treatment Mode 1.) negative control vehicle 10 months old (41-45 weeks) 2.) positive control Ibuprofen treatment for 6 months (25-26 weeks) starting at age of 4 months (15-20 weeks) 3.) Qpct-inhibitor low dose treatment for 6 months (25-26 weeks) starting at age of 4 months (15-20 weeks) 4.) Qpct-inhibitor high dose treatment for 6 months (25-26 weeks) starting at age of 4 months (15-20 weeks)

In regard to Alzheimer's disease, the efficacy of the Qpct inhibitors can be assayed by sequential extraction of Aβ using SDS and formic acid. Initially, the SDS and formic acid fractions containing the highest Aβ concentrations can be analyzed using an ELISA quantifying total Aβ(x-42) or Aβ(x-40) as well as [pGlu3]Aβ3-40/42/43 or [pGlu11]Aβ11-40/42/43. Test compounds that are identified employing the screening method above and which are suitable for further pharmaceutical development should reduce the formation of [pGlu3]Aβ3-40/42/43 or [pGlu11]Aβ11-40/42/43. In particular, suitable test compounds are capable to reduce the formation of [pGlu3]Aβ3-40 and/or [pGlu3]Aβ3-42.

An ELISA kit for the quantification of [pGlu3]Aβ3-42 is commercially available from IBL, Cat-no. JP27716.

An ELISA for the quantification of [pGlu3]Aβ3-40 is described by Schilling et al., 2008 (Schilling S, Appl T, Hoffmann T, Cynis H, Schulz K, Jagla W, Friedrich D, Wermann M, Buchholz M, Heiser U, von Horsten S, Demuth H U. Inhibition of glutaminyl cyclase prevents pGlu-Abeta formation after intracortical/hippocampal microinjection in vivo/in situ. J. Neurochem. 2008 August; 106(3):1225-36.)

An alternative treatment regime is shown below.

TABLE Animal groups involved, examination of the effect of inhibitors of Qpct on progression of plaque formation in animal models of AD Group Treatment Mode 1) negative control Vehicle 16 months old (67-70 weeks) 2) positive control Ibuprofen treatment for 5 months (21-22 weeks) (0.2 starting at the age 11 months mg/ml) (46-49 weeks) 3) QC-inhibitor low dose treatment for 5 months (21-22 weeks) starting at age 11 months (46-49 weeks) 4) QC-inhibitor high dose treatment for 5 months (21-22 weeks) starting at age 11 months (46-49 weeks)

Subsequently after Qpct-inhibitor treatment, the AD animal can be tested regarding behavioral changes. Suitable behavioral test paradigms are, e.g. those, which address different aspects of hippocampus-dependent learning. Examples for such neurological tests are the Morris water maze test and the Fear Conditioning test looking at contextual memory changes (Comery, T A et al, (2005), J Neurosci 25:8898-8902; Jacobsen J S et al, (2006), Proc Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 103:5161-5166).

The animal model of inflammatory diseases, e.g. atherosclerosis contemplated by the present invention can be an existing atherosclerosis animal model, e.g., apoE deficient mouse, or can be prepared, for example, by preparing a transgenic mouse having Qpct gene overexpression or gene deficiency with apoE deficient background. The apolipoprotein E knockout mouse model has become one of the primary models for atherosclerosis (Arterioscler Thromh Vase Biol., 24: 1006-1014, 2004; Trends Cardiovasc Med, 14: 187-190, 2004). The studies may be performed as described by Johnson et al. in Circulation, 111: 1422-1430, 2005, or using modifications thereof. Apolipoprotein E-Deficient Mouse Model Apolipoprotein E (apoE) is a component of several plasma lipoproteins, including chylomicrons, VLDL, and HDL. Receptor-mediated catabolism of these lipoprotein particles is mediated through the interaction of apoE with the LDL receptor (LDLR) or with LDLR-related protein (LRP). ApoE-deficient mice exhibit hypercholesterolemia and develop complex atheromatous lesions similar to those seen in humans. The efficacy of the compounds of the present invention was also evaluated using this animal model.

Other animal models for inflammatory diseases, which are suitable for use in the aforementioned screening method, are the thioglycollate-induced inflammation model in mice, the collagen-induced Arthritis Model in Rat and in rat models of restenosis (e.g. the effects of the test compounds on rat carotid artery responses to the balloon catheter injury).

In regard to inflammatory diseases, the efficacy of the Qpct inhibitors can be assayed by measuring the inhibition of the chemotaxis of a human monocytic cell line (THP-1 cells) induced by human MCP-1 in vitro. The assay is described in example 16. This inhibitory effect has also been observed in vivo. Effective test compounds should show a reduced monocyte infiltration in a thioglycollate-induced inflammation model in mice.

Furthermore, the inhibition of the formation of pGlu-MCP-1 can be tested in vitro and in vivo.

The methods of the invention can advantageously use cells isolated from a homozygous or heterozygous Qpct mutant non-human mammal, to study amyloid accumulation as well as to test potential therapeutic compounds. The methods of the invention can also be used with cells expressing Qpct such as a transfected cell line.

A Qpct knock-out cell can be used in an in vitro method to screen compounds as potential therapeutic agents for treating Aβ associated disease. In such a method, a compound is contacted with a Qpct knock-out cell, a transfected cell or a cell derived from a Qpct mutant non-human animal, and screened for alterations in a phenotype associated with expression of Qpct. The changes in Aβ production in the cellular assay and the knock-out animal can be assessed by methods well known to those skilled in the art.

A Qpct fusion polypeptide such as Qpct can be particularly useful for such screening methods since the expression of Qpct can be monitored by fluorescence intensity. Other exemplary fusion polypeptides include other fluorescent proteins, or modifications thereof, glutathione-S-transferase (GST), maltose binding protein, poly His, and the like, or any type of epitope tag. Such fusion polypeptides can be detected, for example, using antibodies specific to the fusion polypeptides. The fusion polypeptides can be an entire polypeptide or a functional portion thereof so long as the functional portion retains desired properties, for example, antibody binding activity or fluorescence activity.

The invention further provides a method of identifying a potential therapeutic agent for use in treating the diseases as mentioned above. The method includes the steps of contacting a cell containing the above DNA construct with a compound and screening the cell for the results to be observed, thereby identifying a potential therapeutic agent for use in treating Qpct-related diseases. The cell can be isolated from a knock-out non-human mammal having nucleated cells containing the Qpct DNA construct. Alternatively, the cell can contain a DNA construct comprising a nucleic acid encoding a green fluorescent protein fusion, or other fusion polypeptide, with a Qpct polypeptide.

Additionally, Qpct knock-out cells expressing a Qpct polypeptide can be used in a preliminary screen to identify compounds as potential therapeutic agents having activity that alters a phenotype associated with Qpct expression. As with in vivo screens using Qpct knock-out non-human mammals, an appropriate control cell can be used to compare the results of the screen. The effectiveness of compounds identified by an initial in vitro screen using Qpct knock-out cells can be further tested in vivo using the invention Qpct knock-out non-human mammals, if desired. Thus, the invention provides methods of screening a large number of compounds using a cell-based assay, for example, using high throughput screening, as well as methods of further testing compounds as therapeutic agents in an animal model of Aβ-related disorders.

The present invention also provides a new method for the treatment of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), Alzheimer's disease, Familial Danish Dementia, Familial British Dementia and neurodegeneration in Down syndrome. The N-termini of the amyloid β-peptides deposited in the Alzheimer's disease and Down syndrome brain and the amyloid peptides ADan and ABri deposited in Familial Danish Dementia and Familial British Dementia as well, bear pyroglutamic acid. The pGlu formation is an important event in the development and progression of the disease, since the modified amyloid β-peptides, ADan and ABri show an enhanced tendency to amyloid aggregation and toxicity, likely worsening the onset and progression of the disease. (Russo, C. et al. 2002 J Neurochem 82, 1480-1489; Ghiso, J. et al. 2001 Amyloid 8, 277-284).

In the natural Aβ-peptides (3-40/42), glutamic acid is present as an N-terminal amino acid.

Qpct is involved in the formation of pyroglutamic acid that favors the aggregation of amyloid β-peptides. Thus, an inhibition of Qpct leads to a prevention of the precipitation of the plaque-forming [pGlu3]Aβ3-40/42/43 or [pGlu11]Aβ11-40/42/43, causing the onset and progression of Alzheimer's disease and Down Syndrome.

Glutamate is found in positions 3, 11 and 22 of the amyloid β-peptide. Among them the mutation from glutamic acid (E) to glutamine (Q) in position 22 (corresponds to amino acid 693 of the amyloid precursor protein APP770, Swissprot entry: P05067) has been described as the so-called Dutch type cerebroarterial amyloidosis mutation.

The β-amyloid peptides with a pyroglutamic acid residue in position 3, 11 and/or 22 have been described to be more cytotoxic and hydrophobic than Aβ1-40/4243 (Saido T. C. 2000 Medical Hypotheses 54(3): 427-429).

The multiple N-terminal variations can be generated by the β-secretase enzyme β-site amyloid precursor protein-cleaving enzyme (BACE) at different sites (Huse J. T. et al. 2002 Biol. Chem. 277 (18): 16278-16284), and/or by aminopeptidase processing.

There had been no experimental evidence supporting the enzymatic conversion of Glu1-peptides into pGlu-peptides by an unknown glutamyl cyclase (EC) (Garden, R. W., Moroz, T. P., Gleeson, J. M., Floyd, P. D., Li, L. J., Rubakhin, S. S., and Sweedler, J. V. (1999) J Neurochem 72, 676-681; Hosoda R. et al. (1998) J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 57, 1089-1095). No such enzyme activity had been identified, capable of cyclizing Glu1-peptides, which are protonated N-terminally and possess a negatively charged Glu1 γ-carboxylate moiety under mildly alkaline or neutral pH-conditions.

QC-activity against Gln1-substrates is dramatically reduced below pH 7.0. In contrast, it appears that Glu1-conversion can occur at acidic reaction conditions (e.g. Iwatsubo, T., Saido, T. C., Mann, D. M., Lee, V. M., and Trojanowski, J. Q. (1996) Am J Pathol 149, 1823-1830).

Earlier, it was investigated whether Qpct is able to recognize and to turnover amyloid-β derived peptides under mildly acidic conditions (WO 2004/098625). Therefore, the peptides [Gln3]A1-11a, Aβ3-11a, [Gln3]Aβ3-11a, Aβ3-21a, [Gln3]Aβ3-21a and [Gln3]Aβ3-40 as potential substrates of the enzyme were synthesized and investigated. These sequences were chosen for mimicking natural N-terminally and C-terminally truncated [Glu3]Aβ peptides and [Gln3]Aβ peptides which could occur due to posttranslational Glu-amidation.

It was shown that papaya and human Qpct catalyze both glutaminyl and glutamyl cyclization. Apparently, the primary physiological function of Qpct is to finish hormone maturation in endocrine cells by glutamine cyclization prior or during the hormone secretion process. Such secretory vesicles are known to be acidic in pH. Thus, a side activity of the enzyme in the narrow pH-range from 5.0 to 7.0 could be its newly discovered glutamyl cyclase activity cyclizing also Glu-Aβ peptides. However, due to the much slower occurring Glu-cyclization compared to Gln-conversion, it is questionable whether the glutamyl cyclization plays a significant physiological role. In the pathology of neurodegenerative disorders, however, the glutamyl cyclization is of relevance.

Investigating the pH-dependency of this enzymatic reaction, it has been shown that the unprotonated N-terminus was essential for the cyclization of Gln1-peptides and accordingly that the pKa-value of the substrate was identical to the pKa-value for Qpct-catalysis. Thus, Qpct stabilizes the intramolecular nucleophilic attack of the unprotonated α-amino moiety on the 7-carbonyl carbon.

In contrast to the monovalent charge present on N-terminal glutamine containing peptides, the N-terminal Glu-residue in Glu-containing peptides is predominantly bivalently charged at neutral pH. Glutamate exhibits pKa-values of about 4.2 and 7.5 for the γ-carboxylic and for the α-amino moiety, respectively, i.e. at neutral pH and above, although the α-amino nitrogen is in part or fully unprotonated and nucleophilic, the γ-carboxylic group is unprotonated, and so exercising no electrophilic carbonyl activity. Hence, intramolecular cyclization is impossible.

However, in the pH-range of about 5.2-6.5, between their respective pKa-values, the two functional groups are present both in non-ionized forms, in concentrations of about 1-10% (—NH2) or 10-1% (—COOH) of total N-terminal Glu-containing peptide. As a result, over a mildly acidic pH-range species of N-terminal Glu-peptides are present which carry both groups uncharged, and, therefore, it is possible that Qpct could stabilize the intermediate of intramolecular cyclization into the pGlu-peptide, i.e. if the γ-carboxylic group is protonated, the carbonyl carbon is electrophilic enough to allow nucleophilic attack by the unprotonated α-amino group. At this pH the hydroxyl ion functions as a leaving group. These assumptions are corroborated by the pH-dependence data obtained for the Qpct catalyzed conversion of Glu-βNA. In contrast to glutamine conversion of Gln-βNA by Qpct, the pH-optimum of catalysis shifts to the acidic range around pH 6.0, i.e. the pH-range, in which substrate molecule species are simultaneously abundant carrying a protonated 7-carboxyl and unprotonated α-amino group. Furthermore, the kinetically determined pKa-value of 7.55+/−0.02 is in excellent agreement with that of the α-amino group of Glu-β3NA, determined by titration (7.57±0.05).

Physiologically, at pH 6.0 the second-order rate constant (or specificity constant, kcat/KM) of the Qpct-catalyzed glutamate cyclization might be in the range of 1*105-1*106 fold slower than the one for glutamine cyclization. However, the nonenzymatic turnover of both model substrates Glu-βNA and Gln-βNA is negligible, being conform with the observed negligible pGlu-peptide formation. Hence, for the pGlu-formation by Qpct an acceleration of at least 108 can be estimated from the ratio of the enzymatic versus non-enzymatic rate constants (comparing the second-order rate constants for the enzyme catalysis with the respective nonenzymatic cyclization first-order rate constants the catalytic proficiency factor is 109-1010 M−1 for the Gln- and the Glu-conversion, respectively). The conclusion from these data is, that in vivo only an enzymatic path resulting pGlu-formations seems conceivable.

Since Qpct is highly abundant in the brain and taking into account the high turnover rate of 0.9 min−1 recently found for the maturation of 30 μM of (Gln-)TRH-like peptide (Prokal, L., Prokai-Tatrai, K., Ouyang, X., Kim, H. S., Wu, W. M., Zharikova, A., and Bodor, N. (1999) J Med Chem 42, 4563-4571), one can predict a cyclization half-life of about 100 hours for an appropriate glutamate-substrate, if similar reaction conditions are provided. Moreover, given compartmentalization and localization of brain Qpct in the secretory pathway, the actual in vivo enzyme and substrate concentrations and reaction conditions might be even more favorable for the enzymatic cyclization in the intact cell. And, if N-terminal Glu is transformed to Gln a much more rapid pGlu-formation mediated by Qpct could be expected. In vitro, both reactions were suppressed by applying inhibitors of Qpct-activity.

In summary, it was shown that human Qpct, which is highly abundant in the brain, is likely a catalyst of the formation of the amyloidogenic pGlu-Ap peptides from Glu-Ap and Gln-Ap precursors, which make up more than 50% of the plaque deposits found in Alzheimer's disease. These findings identify Qpct as a player in senile plaque formation and thus as a novel drug target in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, neurodegeneration in Down Sydrome, Familial Danish Dementia and Familial British Dementia. See, e.g. WO 2004/098625 and WO 2005/039548.

In a preferred embodiment, the present invention provides the use of activity-decreasing effectors of Qpct, as selected with use of the present inventive animal model, for the suppression of pGlu-Amyloid peptide formation in Mild Cognitive Impairment, Alzheimer's disease, Down Syndrome, Familial Danish Dementia and Familial British Dementia.

In a further embodiment, the present invention provides the use of activity-increasing effectors of Qpct, as selected with use of the present inventive animal model, for the stimulation of gastrointestinal tract cell proliferation, especially gastric mucosal cell proliferation, epithelial cell proliferation, the differentiation of acid-producing parietal cells and histamine-secreting enterochromaffin-like (ECL) cells, and the expression of genes associated with histamine synthesis and storage in ECL cells, as well as for the stimulation of acute acid secretion in mammals by maintaining or increasing the concentration of active[pGlu1]-Gastrin.

In a preferred embodiment, the present invention provides the use of activity-decreasing effectors of Qpct, as selected with use of the present inventive animal model, for the suppression of pGlu-cytokine function, preferably chemokine function, most preferably monocyte chemoattractant function in Alzheimer's disease, Down Syndrome, Familial Danish Dementia and Familial British Dementia, atherosclerosis and restenosis.

A number of studies have underlined in particular the crucial role of MCP-1 for the development of atherosclerosis (Gu, L., et al., (1998) Mol. Cell. 2, 275-281; Gosling, J., et al., (1999) J. Clin. Invest 103, 773-778); rheumatoid arthritis (Gong, J. H., et al., (1997) J Exp. Med 186, 131-137; Ogata, H., et al., (1997) J Pathol. 182, 106-114); pancreatitis (Bhatia, M., et al., (2005) Am. J Physiol Gastrointest. Liver Physiol 288, G1259-G1265); Alzheimer's disease (Yamamoto, M., et al., (2005) Am. J Pathol. 166, 1475-1485); lung fibrosis (Inoshima, I., et al., (2004) Am. J Physiol Lung Cell Mol. Physiol 286, L1038-L1044); renal fibrosis (Wada, T., et al., (2004) J. Am. Soc. Nephrol. 15, 940-948), and graft rejection (Saiura, A., et al., (2004) Arterioscler. Thromb. Vasc. Biol. 24, 1886-1890). Furthermore, MCP-1 might also play a role in gestosis (Katabuchi, H., et al., (2003) Med Electron Microsc. 36, 253-262), as a paracrine factor in tumor development (Ohta, M., et al., (2003) Int. J. Oncol. 22, 773-778; Li, S., et al., (2005) J Exp. Med 202, 617-624), neuropathic pain (White, F. A., et al., (2005) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A) and AIDS (Park, I. W., Wang, J. F., and Groopman, J. E. (2001) Blood 97, 352-358; Coll, B., et al., (2006) Cytokine 34, 51-55).

The mature form of human and rodent MCP-1 is post-translationally modified by Glutaminyl Cyclase (Qpct) to possess an N-terminal pyroglutamyl (pGlu) residue. The N-terminal pGlu modification makes the protein resistant against N-terminal degradation by aminopeptidases, which is of importance, since chemotactic potency of MCP-1 is mediated by its N-terminus (Van Damme, J., et al., (1999) Chem Immunol 72, 42-56). Artificial elongation or degradation leads to a loss of function although MCP-1 still binds to its receptor (CCR2) (Proost, P., et al., (1998), J Immunol 160, 4034-4041; Zhang, Y. J., et al., 1994, J Biol Chem 269, 15918-15924; Masure, S., et al., 1995, J Interferon Cytokine Res. 15, 955-963; Hemmerich, S., et al., (1999) Biochemistry 38, 13013-13025).

Due to the major role of MCP-1 in a number of disease conditions, an anti-MCP-1 strategy is required. Therefore, small orally available compounds inhibiting the action of MCP-1 are promising candidates for a drug development. Inhibitors of Glutaminyl Cyclase are small orally available compounds, which target the important step of pGlu-formation at the N-terminus of MCP-1 (Cynis, H., et al., (2006) Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1764, 1618-1625; Buchholz, M., et al., (2006) J Med Chem 49, 664-677). In consequence, caused by Qpct-inhibition, the N-terminus of MCP-1 is not protected by a pGlu-residue. Instead, the N-terminus possesses a glutamine-proline motif, which is prone to cleavage by dipeptidylpeptidases, e.g. dipeptidylpeptidase 4 and fibroblast activating protein (FAP, Seprase), which are abundant on the endothelium and within the blood circulation. This cleavage results in the formation of N-terminal truncated MCP-1. These molecules unfold, in turn, an antagonistic action at the CCR2 and therefore, monocyte-related disease conditions are inhibited efficiently.

In a further embodiment, the present invention provides the use of activity decreasing effectors of Qpct, as selected with use of the present inventive animal model, for the treatment of duodenal ulcer disease and gastric cancer with or without Helicobacter pylori in mammals by decreasing the conversion rate of inactive [Gln1]Gastrin to active [pGlu1]Gastrin.

Neurotensin (NT) is a neuropeptide implicated in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia that specifically modulates neurotransmitter systems previously demonstrated to be misregulated in this disorder. Clinical studies in which cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) NT concentrations have been measured revealed a subset of schizophrenic patients with decreased CSF NT concentrations that are restored by effective antipsychotic drug treatment. Considerable evidence also exists concordant with the involvement of NT systems in the mechanism of action of antipsychotic drugs. The behavioural and biochemical effects of centrally administered NT remarkably resemble those of systemically administered antipsychotic drugs, and antipsychotic drugs increase NT neurotransmission. This concatenation of findings led to the hypothesis that NT functions as an endogenous antipsychotic. Moreover, typical and atypical antipsychotic drugs differentially alter NT neurotransmission in nigrostriatal and mesolimbic dopamine terminal regions, and these effects are predictive of side effect liability and efficacy, respectively (Binder, E. B. et al. 2001 Biol Psychiatry 50 856-872).

In another embodiment, the present invention provides the use of activity increasing effectors of Qpct, as selected with use of the present inventive animal model, for the preparation of antipsychotic drugs and/or for the treatment of schizophrenia in mammals. The effectors of Qpct either maintain or increase the concentration of active [pGlu1]neurotensin.

Fertilization promoting peptide (FPP), a tripeptide related to thyrotrophin releasing hormone (TRH), is found in seminal plasma. Recent evidence obtained in vitro and in vivo showed that FPP plays an important role in regulating sperm fertility. Specifically, FPP initially stimulates nonfertilizing (incapacitated) spermatozoa to “switch on” and become fertile more quickly, but then arrests capacitation so that spermatozoa do not undergo spontaneous acrosome loss and therefore do not lose fertilizing potential. These responses are mimicked, and indeed augmented, by adenosine, known to regulate the adenylyl cyclase (AC)/cAMP signal transduction pathway. Both FPP and adenosine have been shown to stimulate cAMP production in incapacitated cells but inhibit it in capacitated cells, with FPP receptors somehow interacting with adenosine receptors and G proteins to achieve regulation of AC. These events affect the tyrosine phosphorylation state of various proteins, some being important in the initial “switching on”, and others possibly being involved in the acrosome reaction itself. Calcitonin and angiotensin II, also found in seminal plasma, have similar effects in vitro on incapacitated spermatozoa and can augment responses to FPP. These molecules have similar effects in vivo, affecting fertility by stimulating and then maintaining fertilizing potential. Either reductions in the availability of FPP, adenosine, calcitonin, and angiotensin II or defects in their receptors contribute to male infertility (Fraser, L. R. and Adeoya-Osiguwa, S. A. 2001 Vitam Horm 63, 1-28).

In a further embodiment, the present invention provides the use of activity-lowering effectors of Qpct, as selected with the present inventive animal model, for the preparation of fertilization prohibitive drugs and/or to reduce the fertility in mammals. The activity lowering effectors of Qpct decrease the concentration of active [pGlu1]FPP, leading to a prevention of sperm capacitation and deactivation of sperm cells. In contrast it could be shown that activity-increasing effectors of Qpct are able to stimulate fertility in males and to treat infertility.

In another embodiment, the present invention provides the use of effectors of Qpct, as selected with use of the present inventive animal model, for the preparation of a medicament for the treatment of pathophysiological conditions, such as suppression of proliferation of myeloid progenitor cells, neoplasia, inflammatory host responses, cancer, malign metastasis, melanoma, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, lung fibrosis, liver fibrosis, renal fibrosis, graft rejection, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, impaired humoral and cell-mediated immunity responses, leukocyte adhesion and migration processes at the endothelium.

In a further embodiment, the present invention provides the use of effectors of Qpct, as selected with use of the present inventive animal model, for the preparation of a medicament for the treatment of impaired food intake and sleep-wakefulness, impaired homeostatic regulation of energy metabolism, impaired autonomic function, impaired hormonal balance and impaired regulation of body fluids.

Polyglutamine expansions in several proteins lead to neurodegenerative disorders, such as Chorea Huntington, Parkinson disease and Kennedy's disease. The mechanism therefore remains largely unknown. The biochemical properties of polyglutamine repeats suggest one possible explanation: endolytic cleavage at a glutaminyl-glutaminyl bond followed by pyroglutamate formation may contribute to the pathogenesis through augmenting the catabolic stability, hydrophobicity, amyloidogenicity, and neurotoxicity of the polyglutaminyl proteins (Saido, T. C.; Med Hypotheses (2000) March; 54(3):427-9).

In a further embodiment, the present invention therefore provides the use of effectors of Qpct, as selected with the present inventive animal model, for the preparation of a medicament for the treatment of Parkinson disease and Huntington's disease.

In another embodiment, the present invention provides a general way to reduce or inhibit the enzymatic activity of Qpct by using the test agent selected above.

Inhibition of a mammalian Qpct was only detected initially for 1,10-phenanthroline and reduced 6-methylpterin (Busby, W. H. J. et al. 1987 J Biol Chem 262, 8532-8536). EDTA did not inhibit Qpct, thus it was concluded that Qpct is not a metal-dependent enzyme (Busby, W. H. J. et al, 1987 J Biol Chem 262, 8532-8536, Bateman, R. C. J. et al. 2001 Biochemistry 40, 11246-11250, Booth, R. E. et al. 2004 BMC Biology 2). However, it was shown, that human Qpct and other animal Qpcts are metal-dependent enzymes, as revealed by the inhibition characteristics of Qpct by 1,10-phenanthroline, dipicolinic acid, 8-hydroxy-quinoline and other chelators and by the reactivation of Qpct by transition metal ions. Finally, the metal dependence is outlined by a sequence comparison to other metal-dependent enzymes, showing a conservation of the chelating amino acid residues also in human Qpct. The interaction of compounds with the active-site bound metal ion represents a general way to reduce or inhibit Qpct activity.

The agents selected by the above-described screening methods can work by decreasing the conversion of at least one substrate of Qpct (negative effectors, inhibitors), or by increasing the conversion of at least one substrate of Qpct (positive effectors, activators).

The compounds of the present invention can be converted into acid addition salts, especially pharmaceutically acceptable acid addition salts.

The salts of the compounds of the invention may be in the form of inorganic or organic salts.

The compounds of the present invention can be converted into and used as acid addition salts, especially pharmaceutically acceptable acid addition salts. The pharmaceutically acceptable salt generally takes a form in which a basic side chain is protonated with an inorganic or organic acid. Representative organic or inorganic acids include hydrochloric, hydrobromic, perchloric, sulfuric, nitric, phosphoric, acetic, propionic, glycolic, lactic, succinic, maleic, fumaric, malic, tartaric, citric, benzoic, mandelic, methanesulfonic, hydroxyethanesulfonic, benzenesulfonic, oxalic, pamoic, 2-naphthalenesulfonic, p-toluenesulfonic, cyclohexanesulfamic, salicylic, saccharinic or triflu-oroacetic acid. All pharmaceutically acceptable acid addition salt forms of the compounds of the present invention are intended to be embraced by the scope of this invention.

In view of the close relationship between the free compounds and the compounds in the form of their salts, whenever a compound is referred to in this context, a corresponding salt is also intended, provided such is possible or appropriate under the circumstances.

Where the compounds according to this invention have at least one chiral center, they may accordingly exist as enantiomers. Where the compounds possess two or more chiral centers, they may additionally exist as diastereomers. It is to be understood that all such isomers and mixtures thereof are encompassed within the scope of the present invention. Furthermore, some of the crystalline forms of the compounds may exist as polymorphs and as such are intended to be included in the present invention. In addition, some of the compounds may form solvates with water (i.e. hydrates) or common organic solvents, and such solvates are also intended to be encompassed within the scope of this invention.

The compounds, including their salts, can also be obtained in the form of their hydrates, or include other solvents used for their crystallization.

In a further embodiment, the present invention provides a method of preventing or treating a condition mediated by modulation of the Qpct enzyme activity in a subject in need thereof which comprises administering any of the compounds of the present invention or pharmaceutical compositions thereof in a quantity and dosing regimen therapeutically effective to treat the condition. Additionally, the present invention includes the use of the compounds of this invention, and their corresponding pharmaceutically acceptable acid addition salt forms, for the preparation of a medicament for the prevention or treatment of a condition mediated by modulation of the Qpct activity in a subject. The compound may be administered to a patient by any conventional route of administration, including, but not limited to, intravenous, oral, subcutaneous, intramuscular, intradermal, parenteral and combinations thereof.

In a further preferred form of implementation, the invention relates to pharmaceutical compositions, that is to say, medicaments, that contain at least one compound of the invention or salts thereof, optionally in combination with one or more pharmaceutically acceptable carriers and/or solvents.

The pharmaceutical compositions may, for example, be in the form of parenteral or enteral formulations and contain appropriate carriers, or they may be in the form of oral formulations that may contain appropriate carriers suitable for oral administration. Preferably, they are in the form of oral formulations.

The effectors of Qpct activity administered according to the invention may be employed in pharmaceutically administrable formulations or formulation complexes as inhibitors or in combination with inhibitors, substrates, pseudosubstrates, inhibitors of Qpct expression, binding proteins or antibodies of those enzyme proteins that reduce the Qpct protein concentration in mammals. The compounds of the invention make it possible to adjust treatment individually to patients and diseases, it being possible, in particular, to avoid individual intolerances, allergies and side-effects.

The compounds also exhibit differing degrees of activity as a function of time. The physician providing treatment is thereby given the opportunity to respond differently to the individual situation of patients: he is able to adjust precisely, on the one hand, the speed of the onset of action and, on the other hand, the duration of action and especially the intensity of action.

A preferred treatment method according to the invention represents a new approach for the prevention or treatment of a condition mediated by modulation of the Qpct enzyme activity in mammals. It is advantageously simple, susceptible of commercial application and suitable for use, especially in the treatment of diseases that are based on unbalanced concentration of physiological active Qpct substrates in mammals and especially in human medicine.

The compounds may be advantageously administered, for example, in the form of pharmaceutical preparations that contain the active ingredient in combination with customary additives like diluents, excipients and/or carriers known from the prior art. For example, they can be administered parenterally (for example i.v. in physiological saline solution) or enterally (for example orally, formulated with customary carriers).

Depending on their endogenous stability and their bioavailability, one or more doses of the compounds can be given per day in order to achieve the desired normalisation of the blood glucose values. For example, such a dosage range in humans may be in the range of from about 0.01 mg to 250.0 mg per day, preferably in the range of about 0.01 to 100 mg of compound per kilogram of body weight.

By administering effectors of Qpct activity to a mammal it could be possible to prevent or alleviate or treat conditions selected from Mild Cognitive Impairment, Alzheimer's disease, Down Syndrome, Familial Danish Dementia, Familial British Dementia, Huntington's Disease, ulcer disease and gastric cancer with or w/o Helicobacter pylori infections, pathogenic psychotic conditions, schizophrenia, infertility, neoplasia, inflammatory host responses, cancer, psoriasis, restenosis, pancreatitis, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, lung fibrosis, liver fibrosis, renal fibrosis, graft rejection, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, impaired humoral and cell-mediated immune responses, leukocyte adhesion and migration processes in the endothelium, impaired food intake, sleep-wakefulness, impaired homeostatic regulation of energy metabolism, impaired autonomic function, impaired hormonal balance and impaired regulation of body fluids.

Further, by administering effectors of Qpct activity to a mammal it could be possible to stimulate gastrointestinal tract cell proliferation, preferably proliferation of gastric mucosal cells, epithelial cells, acute acid secretion and the differentiation of acid producing parietal cells and histamine-secreting enterochromaffin-like cells.

In addition, administration of Qpct inhibitors to mammals may lead to a loss of sperm cell function thus suppressing male fertility. Thus, the prevent invention provides a method for the regulation and control of male fertility and the use of activity lowering effectors of Qpct for the preparation of contraceptive medicaments for males.

Furthermore, by administering effectors of Qpct activity to a mammal it may be possible to suppress the proliferation of myeloid progenitor cells.

The compounds used according to the invention can accordingly be converted in a manner known per se into conventional formulations, such as, for example, tablets, capsules, dragées, pills, suppositories, granules, aerosols, syrups, liquid, solid and cream-like emulsions and suspensions and solutions, using inert, non-toxic, pharmaceutically suitable carriers and additives or solvents. In each of those formulations, the therapeutically effective compounds are preferably present in a concentration of approximately from 0.1 to 80% by weight, more preferably from 1 to 50% by weight, of the total mixture, that is to say, in amounts sufficient for the mentioned dosage latitude to be obtained.

The substances can be used as medicaments in the form of dragées, capsules, biteable capsules, tablets, drops, syrups or also as suppositories or as nasal sprays.

The formulations may be advantageously prepared, for example, by extending the active ingredient with solvents and/or carriers, optionally with the use of emulsifiers and/or dispersants, it being possible, for example, in the case where water is used as diluent, for organic solvents to be optionally used as auxiliary solvents.

Examples of excipients useful in connection with the present invention include: water, non-toxic organic solvents, such as paraffins (for example natural oil fractions), vegetable oils (for example rapeseed oil, groundnut oil, sesame oil), alcohols (for example ethyl alcohol, glycerol), glycols (for example propylene glycol, polyethylene glycol); solid carriers, such as, for example, natural powdered minerals (for example highly dispersed silica, silicates), sugars (for example raw sugar, lactose and dextrose); emulsifiers, such as non-ionic and anionic emulsifiers (for example polyoxyethylene fatty acid esters, polyoxyethylene fatty alcohol ethers, alkylsulphonates and arylsulphonates), dispersants (for example lignin, sulphite liquors, methylcellulose, starch and polyvinylpyrrolidone) and lubricants (for example magnesium stearate, talcum, stearic acid and sodium lauryl sulphate) and optionally flavourings.

Administration may be carried out in the usual manner, preferably enterally or parenterally, especially orally. In the case of enteral administration, tablets may contain in addition to the mentioned carriers further additives such as sodium citrate, calcium carbonate and calcium phosphate, together with various additives, such as starch, preferably potato starch, gelatin and the like. Furthermore, lubricants, such as magnesium stearate, sodium lauryl sulphate and talcum, can be used concomitantly for tabletting. In the case of aqueous suspensions and/or elixirs intended for oral administration, various taste correctives or colourings can be added to the active ingredients in addition to the above-mentioned excipients.

In the case of parenteral administration, solutions of the active ingredients using suitable liquid carriers can be employed. In general, it has been found advantageous to administer, in the case of intravenous administration, amounts of approximately from 0.01 to 2.0 mg/kg, preferably approximately from 0.01 to 1.0 mg/kg, of body weight per day to obtain effective results and, in the case of enteral administration, the dosage is approximately from 0.01 to 2 mg/kg, preferably approximately from 0.01 to 1 mg/kg, of body weight per day.

It may nevertheless be necessary in some cases to deviate from the stated amounts, depending upon the body weight of the experimental animal or the patient or upon the type of administration route, but also on the basis of the species of animal and its individual response to the medicament or the interval at which administration is carried out. Accordingly, it may be sufficient in some cases to use less than the above-mentioned minimum amount, while, in other cases, the mentioned upper limit will have to be exceeded. In cases where relatively large amounts are being administered, it may be advisable to divide those amounts into several single doses over the day. For administration in human medicine, the same dosage latitude is provided. The above remarks apply analogously in that case.

For examples of pharmaceutical formulations, specific reference is made to the examples of WO 2004/098625, pages 50-52, which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.

EXAMPLES

The above disclosure describes the present invention in general. A more complete understanding can be obtained by reference to the following examples. These examples are described solely for purposes of illustration and are not intended to limit the scope of the invention. Although specific terms have been employed herein, such terms are intended in a descriptive sense and not for purposes of limitation. It should be appreciated by those of skill in the art that the techniques disclosed in the examples that follow represent approaches the inventors have found function well in the practice of the invention, and thus can be considered to constitute examples of modes for its practice. However, those of skill in the art should, in light of the present disclosure, appreciate that many changes can be made in the specific embodiments that are disclosed and still obtain a like or similar result without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.

Using the general strategy illustrated in FIG. 1, the development of the Qpct constitutive and conditional knock-out mouse lines according to the present invention comprised the following steps:

    • Cloning and sequencing of the targeted region of the murine Qpct locus in a 129Sv/Pas genetic background
    • Targeting vector and positive control vector design and construction
    • Set-up of the screening conditions for the detection of homologous recombination events, Cre-mediated and Flp-mediated excision events (PCR and Southern blot)
    • Homologous recombination in ES cells
    • ES cell injection into blastocysts and generation of chimeras
    • Breeding of chimeras with ubiquitous Flp-expressing animals and generation of Qcpt floxed heterozygous mouse line.
    • Breeding of chimeras or heterozygous with ubiquitous Cre-expressing animals and generation of heterozygous mutant mice carrying a Knock-out Qpct allele.

Using the general strategy illustrated in FIG. 1, the development of the Qpct constitutive and conditional Knock-out mouse lines according to the present invention comprised the following steps:

    • Cloning and sequencing of the targeted region of the murine Qpct locus in a 129Sv/Pas genetic background
    • Targeting vector and positive control vector design and construction
    • Set-up of the screening conditions for the detection of homologous recombination events, Cre-mediated and Flp-mediated excision events (PCR and Southern blot)
    • Homologous recombination in ES cells
    • ES cell injection into blastocysts and generation of chimeras
    • Breeding of chimeras with ubiquitous Flp-expressing animals and generation of Qcpt floxed heterozygous mouse line.
    • Breeding of chimeras or heterozygotes with ubiquitous Cre-expressing animals and generation of heterozygous mutant mice carrying a Knock-out Qpct allele.

Example 1

1. Mouse Qpct Gene Characterisation

The murine Qpct gene encodes for glutaminyl cyclase, which is responsible for the presence of pyroglutamyl residues in many neuroendocrine peptides.

1.1 Mouse Qpct locus

The mouse Qpct gene is located on chromosome 17 and extends over 37.5 kb. The C57BL/6 mouse sequence is available on the Ensembl database (www.ensembl.org, ENSMUSG00000024084). Using the cDNA sequence NM_128770, the exon/intron organisation of the gene was established. This mouse gene consists in 7 exons interrupted by 6 introns. The translation initiation site is located in the first exon and the stop codon is located in exon 7.

The Ensembl database search also revealed the presence of the PRKCN gene, located on the same strand, 40 kb upstream of the Qpct gene. No genes are known or predicted within the 80 kb region downstream of Qpct gene, nor on the complementary strand. The targeting of the Qpct locus is thus not predicted to influence any other gene expression.

1.2 Mouse Qpct protein

Two isoforms are known for the murine QPCT protein. These two isoforms (362 and 313 aa, respectively) are translated from two mRNAs: one containing all the exons (AK045974) and a splice variant in which exon 2 is spliced out (BC020023).

At the functional level, residues important for the catalytic function of the protein are known in exon 3 (residue H141, see FIG. 2), exon 4 (E202 and E203) and exon 7 (H331). Residues important for binding to the substrate were also characterised in exon 3 (D160) and exon 5 (D249).

2. Strategy for the Development of Qpct Knock-Out Models

The aim of the present invention—the generation of both constitutive and conditional Qpct Knock-out models—has been achieved by flanking the targeted region with two LoxP sites, allowing its ubiquitous or tissue specific deletion following Cre-recombinase action.

Due to the size of Qpct gene, it is not possible to delete the whole gene using classical genome engineering methodology. Based on the functional data described below, Qpct exons 4 and 5 were targeted.

Qpct Exon 4 and 5 Targeting:

    • Two catalytic residues encoded in exon 4 are deleted.
    • Substrate binding residue D248 encoded in exon 5 is deleted.
    • Reduced size of the targeted region to be deleted. This increases the probability of the homologous recombination step and allows efficient Cre-mediated recombination.
    • The knock-out results in a frame shift leading to the generation of an early stop codon in exon 6 and thus in the loss of the N terminal part of the protein.
    • Should an alternative splicing even occur between exon 3 and 7 after the deletion of the targeted region, an early stop codon also appears at the beginning of exon 7. This guarantees that neither exon 6 nor exon 7 can be translated with the Knock-out strategy proposed.
    • The design of a targeting vector, central to the development of the two models, is illustrated in FIG. 3, and displays the following features:
    • Introduction of two LoxP sites flanking the Qpct exons 4 and 5. One of these LoxP sites (distal LoxP site) will be inserted in intron 3, in the long homology arm. The second LoxP site will be inserted in intron 5. This LoxP site will be associated with the neomycin selection cassette (see below).
    • Insertion of negative and positive selection cassettes:
      • An FRT-flanked neomycin positive selection cassette will be inserted (in association with a LoxP site) in the targeting vector, to allow the selection of the transfected ES cell clones. The FRT sites allow the deletion of the neomycin selection cassette under the Flp-recombinase action.
      • A Diphtheria Toxin A (DTA) negative selection cassette will also be included at one extremity of the targeting vector in order to enhance the homologous recombination event at the 5′ of the targeting vector

Example 2

2.1. Cloning and Sequencing of the Mouse Qpct Homology Regions

2.1.1 Cloning of the Mouse Qpct Homology Regions

The first step of the project consisted of the cloning of about 12 kb mouse genomic DNA fragment encompassing Qpct exons 4 to 6. This material was used to generate the homology arms required for the construction of the targeting vector. As illustrated in FIG. 4, it was cloned as two overlapping fragments:

    • A 5′ fragment containing the Qpct exons 4 and 5 corresponding to the 5′ homology arm.
    • A 3′ fragment containing the Qpct exons 5 and 6 corresponding to the 3′ homology arm.

In order to ensure the successful amplification of the homology regions, two BAC clones were isolated by screening of a murine 129-mouse BAC DNA library (CT7/Invitrogen) with a 544 bp probe containing Qpct exon 5. These BAC clones are localised on membrane 201 of the library (Invitrogen/ResGen, BAC membrane order Cat#96051). The clones are referenced 201L13 and 201L14 (Invitrogen/ResGen, BAC clone order Cat#96022).

Three primer sets were designed for the amplification of each homology fragment. The three primer pairs were tested for each amplification and the optimal combination was selected for the amplification of the Qpct homology arms. The amplifications were performed on the 201L13 BAC clone with 15 PCR cycles in order to reduce the risk of mutations introduced during the amplification.

The details of the PCR amplification for the two fragments are as follows:

    • Proof reading thermostable Taq polymerase: “Expand long template PCR system” kit (Roche Diagnostics).
    • PCR matrix: the amplifications were performed using the 201L13 BAC vector (Invitrogen/ResGen, BAC clone order Cat#96022).
    • Primer sequences:

SEQ ID No: Amplification of the 5′ long homology arm TOR2-A1: 5′ GTAGCTGGGATTACAGGAATGTGCC 3′ 1 TOR2-B1: 5′ GTCCTGAAGTTTGAGAACCACTGGC 3′ 2 Amplification of the 3′short homology arm TOR2-C3: 5′ GCTAACTTTGCTAAGTCAGGAGGCC 3′ 3 TOR2-D3: 5′ TCTACCTCACACCAGTCAGAATGGC 3′ 4

PCR Conditions:

94° C. for 2 min

94° C. for 30 s,

65° C. for 30 s×15 cycles

68° C. for 7 min for A/B primers

    • 4 min for C/D primers
      68° C. for 10 min

Expected Sizes:

A1/B1 fragment: 7299 pb

C3/D3 fragment: 4901 pb

2.2 Sequencing of the Mouse Qpct Homology Regions

The A1/B1 and C3/D3 PCR fragments, containing the long and short homology arms, respectively, were then sub-cloned into the pCR4-TOPO vector (Stratagene). For each fragment, three independent subclones have been fully sequenced.

Long Arm of Homology

The sequences obtained from the 3 clones containing the 129Sv/Pas genetic background PCR amplified A1/B1 fragment were first aligned with each other to identify putative mutations introduced by the PCR amplification.

Then, the 129Sv/Pas sequences generated were aligned with the C57BL/6 sequence available in a public database. This enabled the determination of the polymorphism between the C57BL/6 and 129Sv/Pas strains in the region of interest.

One of the sequenced clones presented no mutation in the whole amplified region. This clone has been chosen for the following cloning steps and is referred to as TOR2-TOPO-LA. The fragment of the Qpct DNA sequence, which is contained in the TOR2-TOPO-LA clone, is represented by the sequence of SEQ ID NO. 24. The two other clones presented 2 and 5 mutations, respectively.

The alignment with the C57BL/6 sequence leads to the following conclusions:

    • Sequence deletions: 5 small regions (between 1 and 22 bp long) are absent in the 129Sv/Pas sequence compared to the C57BL/6 one. These deletions are all located in intron 3.
    • Sequence insertions: 3 small regions (between 1 and 9 bp long) are present only in the 129Sv/Pas sequence. Two of these insertions are located in intron 3, the last one is inserted in intron 4.
    • 184 base substitutions are distributed all over the long arm of homology sequence.

Taken together, these data suggest that the polymorphism rate between the C57BL/6 and the 129Sv/Pas genetic background within the 7.3 kb long arm of homology is about 2.5%. This polymorphism rate is 10 times higher than the average rate usually observed in other loci.

Short Arm of Homology

The sequences obtained from the 3 clones containing the 129Sv/Pas genetic background PCR amplified C3/D3 fragment were first aligned with each other to identify putative mutations introduced by the PCR amplification.

Then, the 129Sv/Pas sequences generated were aligned with the C57BL/6 sequence available in a public database. This enabled the determination of the polymorphism between the C57BL/6 and the 129Sv/Pas strains in the region of interest.

Two of the sequenced clones presented no mutation in the whole amplified region. One of these two clones was chosen for the following cloning steps and is referred to as TOR2-TOPO-SA. The fragment of the Qpct DNA sequence, which is contained in the TOR2-TOPO-SA clone is represented by the sequence of SEQ ID NO. 25. The third clone sequenced presented 2 mutations.

The alignment with the C57BL/6 sequence leads to the following conclusions:

    • Sequence insertion: a 28-bp region is present only in the 129Sv/Pas sequence, in a region presenting some repeats.
    • 122 base substitutions are distributed all over the short arm of homology sequence.

Taken together, these data suggest that the polymorphism rate between the C57BL/6 and the 129Sv/Pas genetic background within the 4.9 kb short arm of homology is fairly high (about 3%).

The targeting vector construction strategy and screening strategies were designed based on the sequence generated from the cloning of Qcpt exons 3 to 6.

Example 3

Construction of the Targeting Vector and Positive Control Vector

The global strategy for the final targeting vector construction is depicted schematically in FIG. 5. This construction can be sub-divided into 8 steps (circled numbers in FIG. 5) performed in parallel.

Steps 1a and 1b: The 5′ and 3′ homology arms were PCR amplified from mouse 129Sv/Pas genomic DNA. The short arm of homology contains an extended region (indicated as a green dotted line in 3b FIG. 5) that is not present in the final targeting vector (see 4a and 5a, FIG. 5).
Steps 2a and 2b: The two homology arms were subcloned in pScript vectors containing a modified linker with all the restriction sites used for the construction of the targeting vector.
Step 3a: A distal LoxP site was introduced at the BsgI site in intron 3. This distal LoxP site was introduced together with a SwaI and BamHI restriction sites located downstream of the LoxP site. The restriction sites are used for the detection of the distal LoxP site in ES cell clones and for the Southern analysis of the clones.
Step 3b: An FRT-PGK-neomycin-FRT-LoxP positive selection cassette, proven to be efficient in ES cells, was subcloned into intron 5, upstream of the extended 3′ homology arm. This step leads to the generation of the positive control vector subsequently used for PCR screening set up (see below).
Step 4: The 5′ long homology arm, containing the distal LoxP site, was cloned together with the 3′ short arm of homology. This latter short arm is shortened at its final size, ending at the NotI site in intron 6.

The resulting vector, referred to as TOR2-LSA vector, was used as a targeting vector and was electroporated in ES cells.

Step 5: Sub-cloning of a Diphteria Toxin A (DTA) negative selection cassette upstream of the 5′ long homology arm.

The TOR2-LSA vector (vector without DTA) was electroporated into ES cells while trying to subclone the DTA cassette. Indeed, the DTA selection cassette helps to counterselect the ES cell clones in which the targeting vector has been integrated randomly in the genome, but is not mandatory.

The targeting vector displays the following features:

    • Homology arms isogenic with the ES cell line that will be used (129Sv/Pas).
    • Presence of exons 4 to 6 of the Qpct gene.
    • Total homology with targeted allele about 9 kb.
    • Asymmetrical homology arms (5′ long arm: 6.6 kb, 3′ short arm: 2.4 kb).
    • Positive selection neomycin gene flanked by FRT sites. The FRT-flanked selection cassette can be removed using the Flp recombinase.
    • LoxP sites flanking the exons 4 and 5 and allowing their deletion under the Cre-recombinase action. This deletion generating Qpct Knock-out animals can be performed in vivo by breeding the line with Cre-expressing mice. Depending on the ubiquitous or tissue specific expression of the Cre in the mouse line used, a constitutive or conditional Qpct Knock-out will be obtained.
    • The distal LoxP site is introduced at a reduced distance (3 kb) from the neomycin selection cassette. This favours its integration during the homologous recombination step.

Example 4

Design and Setting Up of the Screening Strategy for the Detection of Homologous Recombination Events

It is absolutely crucial to design screening strategies allowing a quick and unequivocal identification of the homologous recombination event in ES cells. The screening strategy is based on an initial PCR screening for a 3′ targeting event, then a PCR screening for a 5′ targeting event. The clones identified by PCR will then be confirmed by Southern blot analysis.

4.1 PCR Screening for Detection of a Homologous Recombination Event

Screening for 3′ Targeting Event:

The initial screening for detection of the expected integration of the targeting vector is achieved by PCR amplification over the 3′ short arm of homology. This PCR is performed using a forward primer (TOR2-H, FIG. 6) hybridizing in the neomycin selection cassette and a reverse primer (TOR2-I, FIG. 6) located downstream of the targeting vector homology sequence. Because of its localisation, this primer set allows unequivocal and specific detection of the 3′ integration of the targeting vector in the Qpct locus.

Three sets of H/I primers (TOR2-H1/TOR2-I1 to TOR2-H3/TOR2-I3, see below) were designed to optimise the quality of the screening. This screening was first set up on a positive control vector (see below and FIG. 6), on wild type 129Sv/Pas genomic DNA and on positive control vector diluted in genomic DNA as follows:

    • No DNA
    • 0.1 copy equivalent genome* of control DNA
    • 0.5 copy equivalent genome* of control DNA
    • 1 copy equivalent genome of control DNA
    • 10 copy equivalent genome of control DNA
    • 150 ng of 129Sv/Pas genomic DNA
    • 150 ng of genomic DNA+0.1 copy equivalent genome of control DNA
    • 150 ng of genomic DNA+0.5 copy equivalent genome of control DNA
    • 150 ng of genomic DNA+1 copy equivalent genome of control DNA
    • 150 ng of genomic DNA+10 copy equivalent genome of control DNA

(*) 1 copy equivalent genome of control DNA is the weight of control DNA containing the same number of copies as in 150 ng of genomic DNA.

1 copy equivalent genome=length of control vector (bp)×150/6.109 bp. Thus, for TOR2-C+ vector of 7975 bp, 1 copy equivalent genome is 2.0 10-4 ng.

This procedure allows to set-up a PCR screening which is sensitive enough to detect 1 copy equivalent genome of control DNA in genomic DNA. This is required for a reliable screening of the ES cells.

3′ End PCR Conditions:

    • Taq polymerase: from the “Expand long template PCR system” kit (Roche diagnostics).

SEQ ID Primer sequences: No: TOR2-H1: 5′ GTGCTACTTCCATTTGTCACGTCC 3′ 5 TOR2-I1: 5′ TGTGGGACATCAATGAGAGGAGAG 3′ 6 TOR2-H2: 5′ CTACTTCCATTTGTCACGTCCTGCACG 3′ 7 TOR2-I2: 5′ GTGCTACTTCCATTTGTCACGTCC 3′ 8 TOR2-H3: 5′ CCAGTCATAGCCGAATAGCCTCTCC 3′ 9 TOR2-I3: 5′ AGGAGTTGGTGGGTTAGTGAGCAGG 3′ 10
    • PCR mix and program:

Reaction Mix Genomic DNA from ES cells 400.0 ng dNTP 10 mM 2.5 μl Buffer 3 (10 x) 5 μl Taq Polymerase (Qiagen) 0.75 μl Primer 1 (100 pMol/μl) 0.15 μl Primer 2 (100 pMol/μl) 0.15 μl Reaction Volume 50 μl Reaction conditions Step Temp. Time Cycles Denaturing 94° C. 120 s  1x Denaturing 94° C.  30 s 35x Annealing 65° C.  30 s 35x Extension 68° C. 180 s 35x Completion 68° C. 600 s  1x
    • Expected sizes:

TOR2-H1/TOR2-I1 primer set: 3284 bp TOR2-H2/TOR2-I2 primer set: 2900 bp TOR2-H3/TOR2-I3 primer set: 3555 bp

No amplification is expected on wild type DNA as TOR2-H hybridises with the neomycin cassette.

The three sets of primers were tested on serial dilutions of the positive control vector plasmid TOR2-C+ spiked in genomic DNA extracted from wild type 129Sv/Pas ES cells as described above.

The primer set TOR2-H2/TOR2-I2 gave the optimal results and was selected for the screening. As illustrated in FIG. 7, TOR2-H2/TOR2-I2 primers give rise to the detection of the expected 2.9 kb band. The PCR sensitivity allows the detection of 0.1 copy equivalent genome (lanes 2 and 6 in FIG. 7), fulfilling the PCR set up requirement. Furthermore, specificity of the PCR reaction is validated since no signal is observed on genomic DNA extracted from wild type 129Sv/Pas ES cells (see lane 10 in FIG. 7).

Primer set TOR2-H2/TOR2-I2 was tested under conditions similar to recombinant genomic structure. This was achieved by transfecting TOR2-C+ positive control vector into ES cell. This protocol has been established to test the specificity of the primers and the sensitivity of the PCR reaction. The results are illustrated in FIG. 8.

Among 39 resistant control ES cell clones screened, 13 showed the expected 2.9 kb band, as illustrated for 7 clones in FIG. 8. This demonstrated that the PCR screening is reliable for the screening of resistant clones obtained after electroporation of TOR2-C+ vector. ES cell stable transfectant clones 1B9 and 1A1 were selected in order to be used as positive control during the screening of the homologous recombination event.

Screening for 5′ Targeting Event:

TOR2-J2/TOR2-K2 primers were designed to detect the expected integration of the 5′ end of the targeting vector. The forward primer (TOR2-J2, FIG. 9) is located upstream of the long arm of homology and the reverse primer (TOR2-K2, FIG. 9) is located in intron 4. Because of its localisation, this primer set allows unequivocal and specific detection of the 5′ integration of the targeting vector in the Qpct locus.

5′ End PCR Conditions:

    • Taq polymerase: from the “Expand long template PCR system” kit (Roche diagnostics).

SEQ ID Primer sequences: No: TOR2-J2: 5′ GCCTTCTAAGTAGCTGGGATTACAGG 3′ 11 TOR2-K2: 5′ GAGACCCATACAGAGAATCTTGAGGG 3′ 12
    • PCR mix and program:

Reaction conditions Reaction Mix Step Temp. Time Cycles Genomic DNA from 400.0 ng ES cells dNTP 10 mM 2.5 μl Denaturing 94° C. 120 s 1x Buffer 3 (10x) 5 μl Denaturing 94° C.  30 s 35x Taq Polymerase 0.75 μl Annealing 65° C.  30 s 35x (Qiagen) Primer 1 0.15 μl Extension 68° C. 180 s 35x (100 pMol/μl) Primer 2 0.15 μl Completion 68° C. 600 s 1x (100 pMol/μl) Reaction Volume 50 μl
    • Expected size for PCR products are:

PCR product Profile after SwaI digestion Wild type allele 4597 bp 4597 bp Targeted allele 4649 bp 4018 + 631 bp

The 5′ end PCR screening using the TOR2-J2/TOR2-K2 set of primers was set up on wild type DNA extracted from ES cells and tail biopsies. The results are illustrated in FIG. 10 below.

As illustrated in FIG. 10, the expected 4.6 kb band is observed after amplification on genomic DNA (extracted from ES cells and tail biopsies), using GX2633-TOR2-J2/GX2634-TOR2-K2 primers. This validates the PCR screening for the detection of the distal LoxP site both in ES cells and on tail biopsies.

4.2 Southern Blot Analysis for the Detection of the 5′ and 3′ Targeting Event

The integrity of both 5′ and 3′ end regions after the homologous recombination at the Qpct locus is assessed on the PCR-selected ES cell clones using Southern blot. The restriction maps of the endogenous, targeted Qpct Flp- and Cre-deleted loci are depicted in FIG. 11.

Both 5′ and 3′ Southern blots were performed using restriction enzymes cutting upstream of the 5′ homology arm or downstream of the 3′ homology arm (FIG. 11).

The K and R probe sequences were BLASTed against murine genomic databases in order to select the probes with the best specificity based on in silico analysis. Southern blots were set up on wild type genomic DNA in order to validate probe specificity before proceeding to the confirmation screening itself.

Southern Blot Validation of 5′ Targeting Event:

Southern blot analysis to test the 5′ end homologous recombination is based on a BamHIH digestion of the genomic DNA and detection using a 482 bp 5′ internal K probe located in intron 3 (see FIG. 11). This K probe is AvrII/SacI subcloned from the TOR2-TOPO-LA vector.

Wild type genomic DNA digested by BamHI and hybridized with the designed K probe gives a band, the size is around 13.2 kb, while recombinated genomic DNA is expected to give a 8.9 kb band (see FIG. 11).

The hybridisation conditions used are indicated below:

    • Pre-hybridisation and hybridisation: 4×SSC, 1% SDS, 0.5% skimmed milk, 20 mM EDTA, 100 μg/ml herring sperm, at 65° C. for 18 h.
    • Washings: 2 times 3×SSC, 1% SDS at 65° C. for 15 min, then 2 times 0.5×SSC, 1% SDS at 65° C. for 15 min.
    • Exposure: 3 days on BioMax MS films with BioMax intensifying screens.

Preparation of the 5′ K Southern blot probe:

    • TOR2-TOPO-LA vector is digested by AvrII/SacI enzymes to obtain 3 fragments at 8231, 2588 and 482 bp
    • The K probe is obtained by purification of the 482 bp fragment.
      Expected band sizes: Wild type Qpct allele: 13.2 kb
    • Recombinated Qpct allele: 8.9 kb

This Southern blot strategy was tested on genomic DNA extracted from wild type 129Sv/Pas and 129Ola ES cells and C57BL/6 wild type tail biopsies (data not shown). The 5′ K probe has been successfully validated for both ES cell genotyping and characterisation of heterozygous and homozygous mice.

Southern Blot Validation of 3′ Targeting Event:

Southern blot analysis to test the 3′ end homologous recombination is based on a SwaI digestion of the genomic DNA and detection using a 406 bp 3′ internal R probe located in exon 6 (see FIG. 11). This R probe is amplified by PCR using TOR2-R1 and TOR2-R2 primers (see below).

Wild type genomic DNA digested by SwaI and hybridized with the designed R probe gives a band whose size is about 6 kb, while recombinated genomic DNA is expected to give a 10.5 kb band (see FIG. 11).

The hybridisation conditions used are indicated below:

    • Pre-hybridisation and hybridisation: 4×SSC, 1% SDS, 0.5% skimmed milk, 20 mM EDTA, 100 μg/ml herring sperm, at 65° C. for 18 h.
    • Washings: 2 times 3×SSC, 1% SDS at 65° C. for 15 min, then 2 times 0.5×SSC, 1% SDS at 65° C. for 15 min.
    • Exposure: 3 days on BioMax MS films with BioMax intensifying screens.

SEQ ID Amplification of the 3′Southern blot probe: No TOR2-R1 5′ GGGCTTTCTCAGTGTTCTTAACATTCC 3′ 13 TOR2-R2 5′ TCTATCATTGATTCTCAGGATGCGG 3′ 14

This Southern blot strategy was tested on genomic DNA extracted from wild type 129Sv/Pas and 129Ola ES cells and C57BL/6 wild type tail biopsies (see FIG. 12) in order to validate the probe for both ES cell genotyping and characterisation of heterozygous and homozygous mice.

As presented in FIG. 12, the expected 6 kb band was observed after SwaI digestion of 129Sv/Pas and C57BL/6 genomic DNA. This result validates the 3′ end Southern blot strategy.

Example 5

Design of the Screening Strategy for the FLP- and CRE-Mediated Excision Events

The Flp-mediated excision enables the deletion of the neomycin cassette. This deletion can be performed in vitro, by transfection of the targeted ES cell clones with a validated Flp-expressing plasmid, or in vivo, by breeding the Qpct targeted animals with ubiquitous Flp-expressing mice. The Cre-mediated deletion of the Qpct exons 4 and 5, leading to the Qpct Knock-out mouse line will be performed in vivo.

PCR and Southern blot screening enable the detection of the wild type, the targeted Flp-mediated neomycin-deleted and the Cre-mediated Knock-out alleles.

5.1 PCR Screening Strategy for the Detection of the Flp- and Cre-Mediated Excision Events

TOR2-N/TOR2-I1 primers were designed for the detection of Cre-mediated excision events. The forward primer TOR2-I1 is located in the long arm of homology, upstream of the neomycin cassette (FIG. 13). The forward primer TOR2-N is located downstream of the 3′ short arm of homology.

Due to the primer set localisation, this PCR allows an unequivocal detection of the Cre-mediated excision of the exons 4-5 and neomycin selection cassette.

TOR2-N2/TOR2-I4 primers were designed for the detection of Flp-mediated excision events. The forward primer TOR2-N2 is located in the long arm of homology, right upstream of the neomycin cassette (FIG. 13). The forward primer TOR2-I4 is located in the short homology arm, downstream of the neomycin cassette.

Due to the primer set localisation, this PCR allows the detection of the Flp-mediated excision of the neomycin selection cassette. Since this PCR is using primers located internally to the targeting vector, the genotyping of the animals has to be confirmed by Southern blot analysis.

Cre-Mediated Excision PCR Conditions:

    • Taq polymerase: from the “Expand long template PCR system” kit (Roche Diagnostics).

Primer sequences: SEQ ID No GX2147-TOR2-N: 15 5′ AGAGAATGACCACTGCTGAGGATG 3′ GX2140-TOR2-12: 16 5′ TGTGGGACATCAATGAGAGGAGAG 3′
    • PCR program:

PCR cycles 94° C. 2 min 94° C. 30 sec {close oversize bracket} x35 cycles 65° C. 30 sec 68° C. 5 min 68° C. 10 min PCR mix DNA 30 μl dNTP 2.5 μl  10 mM Buffer 5 μl 10x Taq Long expand 0.75 μl Forward primer 0.15 μl 100 pMol/μl Reverse primer 0.15 μl 100 pMol/μl H2O to 50 μl
    • Expected size for PCR products is:

PCR product Wild type allele 7318 bp Targeted allele 9156 bp Cre-mediated excised allele 4390 bp

Flp-Mediated Excision PCR Conditions:

    • Taq polymerase: from the “Expand long template PCR system” kit (Roche Diagnostics).

Primer sequences: SEQ ID No GX4354-TOR2-N2: 17 5′ TTGGTAAGCATCCAGTTACTAAAGAGC 3′ GX4353-TOR2-14: 18 5′ GCAATCGGTTTTAATCACAGTAAGG 3′
    • PCR program:

PCR cycles 94° C. 2 min 94° C. 30 sec {close oversize bracket} x35 cycles 60° C. 30 sec 68° C. 5 min 68° C. 10 min PCR mix DNA 30 μl dNTP 2.5 μl  10 mM Buffer 5 μl 10x Taq Long expand 0.75 μl Forward primer 0.15 μl 100 pMol/μl Reverse primer 0.15 μl 100 pMol/μl H2O to 50 μl
    • Expected size for PCR products is:

PCR product Wild type allele 419 bp Targeted allele 2211 bp  Flp-mediated excised allele 538 bp

The PCR screening for the detection of the Cre-mediated and Flp-mediated excision events (using the GX2147-TOR2-N/GX2140-TOR2-I2 set of primers and the GX4354-TOR2-N2/GX4353-TOR2-I4 set of primers, respectively) was successfully set up on wild type DNA extracted from ES cells and tail biopsies (data not shown).

Example 6

Preparation of the Targeting Vector

TOR2-LSA plasmid was digested by NotI to obtain its linearization. The 13.6 kb resulting fragment was purified by phenol/chloroform extraction followed by ethanol precipitation. This preparation was then used for ES cell electroporation.

Example 7

Selection and Amplification of Geneticin Resistant ES CELL CLONES

The linear TOR2-LSA plasmid was transfected into ES cells according to the following electroporation procedures:

100×106 ES cells in the presence of 100 μg of linearized plasmid, 800 Volt, 300 μF. Positive selection was started 48 hours after electroporation, by addition of 200 μg/ml of G418.

This electroporation gave rise to 237 resistant clones. These ES cell clones were amplified in 96-well plates and duplicates of 96-well plates were made. The set of plates containing ES cell clones amplified on gelatin was screened by PCR for the detection of a homologous recombination event.

In order to bypass the difficulties as encountered with the injection of the first series of clones obtained (see below), a second electroporation of the linear TOR2-LSA plasmid was performed under the same conditions. This second electroporation gave rise to 184 resistant clones. These clones were amplified and duplicated as for the first electroporation.

Example 8

Screening of Geneticin Resistant ES Cell Clones

8.1 PCR Screening for Homologous Recombination at the 3′ End

Using PCR the 237 geneticin-resistant clones (harvested after the first electroporation)+184 geneticin-resistant clones (harvested after the second electroporation) were screened for the detection of the expected homologous recombination event at the 3′ end of the targeting vector.

3′ PCR screening using GX1406-TOR2-H2/GX2141-TOR2-I2 primers revealed 14 (1st electroporation)+21 (2nd electroporation) positive clones displaying an amplified fragment of the expected size (2.9 kb). Seven of these positive clones are illustrated in FIG. 14.

The 3′ PCR positive clones were confirmed by a second 3′ PCR. The 14 positive clones identified from the first electroporation and 10 of the positive clones identified from the second electroporation were further analysed for the homologous recombination event at the 5′ end of the targeting vector.

8.2 PCR Screening for a Homologous Recombination at the 5′ End

The screening for the detection of the homologous recombination event at the 5′ end of the targeting vector was performed using TOR2-J2 (GX2633) and TOR2-K2 (GX2634) primers (see FIG. 9). The forward primer (GX2633-TOR2-J2) is located upstream of the targeting vector and the reverse primer (GX2634) is located in the long homology arm, downstream of the distal LoxP site (see FIG. 9).

A SwaI digestion of the PCR product enables to discriminate between wild type and targeted alleles and to detect the presence of the distal LoxP site inside the long homology arm (see FIG. 9). Due to the primer set localisation, this PCR, followed by a SwaI digestion of the PCR products, allows an unequivocal and specific detection of the 5′ integration of the targeting vector at the Qpct locus.

The 5′ PCR results are illustrated below for three clones (in FIG. 15).

Among the 14+10 ES cell clones identified positive using the 5′ PCR:

    • Eleven clones were unambiguously positive at the 5′ side: namely clones #6A3, #6C3, 6C10, 5B8, 5C5 5C12, 10A9, 10B2, 11B4, 12A2 and 15B2. As the two clones #6A3 and #6C10 illustrated in FIG. 15, the six positive clones displayed a 4.6 PCR product that was subdivided into a 4 kb and a 0.6 kb fragments after SwaI digestion.
    • The results of the 5′ PCR were ambiguous for the two clones #5A11 and #5D4 (weak PCR amplification for these two clones).
    • For the remaining 11 clones (#5A1, 5B2, 5B4, 5A7, 5B9, 5D4, 9A2, 9B1, 10A3, 10A10 and 11B7), the PCR product was not cut by SwaI, as illustrated for clone #6C30 in FIG. 15. This indicates that these 11 clones did not undergo the expected homologous recombination at the 5′ side of the targeting vector.

The 11 positive clones #6A3, #6C3, 6C10, 5B8, 5C5 5C12, 10A9, 10B2, 11B4, 12A2 and 15B2 are thus positive for both 5′ and 3′ PCR screening. This demonstrated that these clones underwent the expected recombination event on both the 5′ long homology arm and the 3′ short homology arm. Furthermore, the presence of the LoxP site at the targeted Qpct locus was demonstrated by the SwaI digestion of the PCR product. This point is crucial to allow the future deletion of exons 4 and 5 under Cre-recombinase action, and thus the Qpct gene Knock-Out.

The 11 positive clones were re-amplified in 24-well plates and further analysed by Southern blot at the 5′ and 3′ sides of the targeting vector.

8.3 Southern Blot Screening

The 11 positive ES cell clones identified by PCR were further tested by 5′ Southern blot. This 5′ Southern blot is based on a BamHI digestion of the genomic DNA and detection using a 482 bp probe, 5′K probe, located in intron 3, in the long homology arm (see Example 4, item 1.2 and FIG. 5).

Expected band sizes: Wild type Qpct allele: 13.2 kb

    • Recombinated Qpct allele: 8.9 kb

As illustrated in FIG. 16 for the 6 positive clones of the first electroporation, the presence of the two bands corresponding to the wild type and targeted Qpct alleles confirmed the PCR screening results for the 11 clones analysed. 4 of the clones, clones #6C10, 10A9, 11B4 and 12A2, displayed an additional band at an unexpected size. Since the probe used was an internal probe (hybridizing inside the targeting vector), the detection of this additional band demonstrated the existence of a random integration of the targeting vector at an unknown locus, in addition to the expected integration of the targeting vector, through a homologous recombination event, at the Qpct locus. Even if this random integrant would be easily segregated from the targeted Qpct allele, the other clones were preferentially selected for the further development of the project.

The 11 ES cell clones were then tested by 3′ Southern blot. The 3′ Southern blot is based on a SwaI digestion of the genomic DNA and detection using a 406 bp 3′ internal R probe located in exon 6 (see Example 4, 1.2 and FIG. 5).

Expected band sizes: Wild type Qpct allele: 6.0 kb

    • Recombinated Qpct allele: 10.5 kb

As illustrated in FIG. 17 for the 6 positive clones of the first electroporation, the presence of the two bands corresponding to the wild type and targeted Qpct alleles confirmed the PCR screening for the 11 clones analysed. Again, clones #6C10, 10A9, 11B4 and 12A2 displayed additional bands with unexpected sizes, confirming the existence of random integrations of the targeting vector at an unknown locus, in addition to the expected integration of the targeting vector, through a homologous recombination event, at the Qpct locus.

The 7 ES cell clones #5B8, #5C5, #5C12, #6A3 #6C3, #10B2 and #15B2 were thus confirmed by Southern blot as correctly targeted at both 5′ and 3′ ends of the targeting vector. The last 4 clones #6C10, 10A9, 11B4 and 12A2 were also confirmed as correctly targeted at both 5′ and 3′ ends of the targeting vector but these clones present an additional random integration of the targeting vector at an unknown locus.

The ES cell clones #5C5, #5C12, #6A3 #6C3, #15B2, #10B2 and #11B4 were selected for the next phase of the project corresponding to the injection into blastocysts.

Example 9

Recombinant ES Cell Blastocyst Injections and Generation of Chimeras

9.1 Injection Sessions

Recipient blastocysts were isolated from pregnant C57BL/6 females (Health status SPF-Specific Pathogens free). Based on morphological features, the ES cell clones #5C5, #5C12, #6A3, #6C3, #15B2, #10B2 and #11B4 were selected to be injected into blastocysts.

Injected blastocysts were then re-implanted into OF1 pseudo-pregnant females (Health status SOPF—Specific and Opportunist Pathogens Free). Table 1 summarizes the results obtained from the injection sessions.

9.2 Chimeras

Clone #6A3 was injected into 86 blastocysts and gave rise to 19 pups. 11 chimeras were identified:

    • 8 male chimeras with a percentage of chimerism of 20%, 15%, 10%, 5% (2 chimeras each).
    • 3 female chimeras with a percentage of chimerism of 20% (2 chimeras), 10% Clone #6C3 was injected into 90 blastocysts and gave rise to 16 pups. 8 chimeras were identified:
    • 3 male chimeras with a percentage of chimerism of 30% and 5% (2 chimeras).
    • 5 female chimeras with a percentage of chimerism of 20% (3 chimeras), 15% and 2%. Clone #5C12 was injected into 54 blastocysts and gave rise to 4 pups. 2 chimeras were identified:
    • 2 male chimeras with a percentage of chimerism of 35% and 15%. Clone #5C5 was injected into 54 blastocysts and gave rise to 3 pups. 3 chimeras were identified:
    • 3 female chimeras with a percentage of chimerism of 90%, 60% and 10%. Clone #15B2 was injected into 30 blastocysts and gave rise to 6 pups. 3 chimeras were identified:
    • 1 male chimera with a percentage of chimerism of 75%.
    • 2 female chimeras with a percentage of chimerism of 90% and 1%. Clone #10B2 was injected into 30 blastocysts and did not give rise to any pup. Clone #11B4 was injected into 30 blastocysts and gave rise to 4 pups. 3 chimeras were identified:
    • 3 male chimeras with a percentage of chimerism of 75%, 35% and 8%.

Table 1 below compiles the results of the ES cell blastocyst injection sessions performed and the chimera generation.

TABLE 1 Results from ES cell clones #6A3, #6C3, #5C12, #5C5, #15B2, #10B2 and #11B4 blastocyst injections Number Preg- of Male Female Foster nant pups/ chimeras chimeras Clone Injected mothers foster Date of Still (% (% Sessions number blastocysts reimplanted mothers birth born chimerism) chimerism) #1 #6A3 26 2 1 4 0 20% 20%, 10% 28/10/05 16 Nov. 2005 #2 #6A3 30 2 1 6 0 20%, 15%, 20%  4/11/05 24 Nov. 2005 10%, 5% #6C3 60 4 4 13  0 30%, 5%, 20%, 20%, 24 Nov. 2005 5% 2% #3 #6A3 30 2 1 9 0 15%, 10%, 18/11/05 7 Nov. 2005 5% #4 #6C3 30 2 2 3 0 20%, 15%  2/12/05 21 Dec. 2005 #5 #5C12 24 2 1 4 0 35%, 15%  6/01/06 25 Jan. 2006 #5C5 24 2 0 #6 #5C12 30 2 0  5/03/06 #5C5 30 2 1 3 0 90%, 60%, 10% #7 #15B2 30 2 1 6 0 75% 90%, 1% 21/04/06 10 May 2006 #10B2 30 2 0 #8 #11B4 30 2 2 4 1 75%, 35%, 24/04/06 19 May 2006 8%

As the female chimeras have a low probability of germ line transmission, the female chimeras obtained were not selected for further breeding.

Among the male chimeras generated, the four males at 20% (clone #6A3, 2 chimeras), 30% (clone #6C3) and 35% (clone #5C12) were selected for the breeding phase. As germline transmission was obtained from one of these chimeras before the last chimera generated (75% of chimerism, clones #15B2 and #11B4) were sexually mature, these latter chimeras were not used in the following breeding phase.

Example 10

Breeding of Chimeras and Generation of F1 Heterozygous for the Targeted or Cre-Excised Alleles

Four chimeric males (displaying 20% to 35% chimerism), generated in the previous phase by blastocyst injection of the ES clone #6A3, #6C3 and #5C12, were mated with wild type C57BL/6J females (health status SOPF—Specific and Opportunist Pathogen Free) to investigate whether the targeted ES cells have contributed to the germ layer. The chimeras were also bred with Flp or Cre “deleter” females (health status SOPF—Specific and Opportunist Pathogen Free) to obtain the deletion of the neomycin selection cassette or Qpct exons 4-5 and selection cassette, respectively.

Table 2 below summarizes the results of chimeras breeding.

TABLE 2 Reporting results of chimera breeding. No. of Male Number Date of Still agouti Tail biopsy No. Chimera male of pups birth born pups (genotype) 20% male C57BL/6 wild chimera (clone type #6A3) C57BL/6 9 26 May 2006 1 0 / cage 4134 CAG-Flp #196 8 28 Apr. 2005 1 0 / and #206 20% male C57BL/6 wild chimera (clone type #6A3) C57BL/6 cage 4135 CAG-Flp #199 and #224 30% male C57BL/6 wild 3 6 Feb. 2006 2 0 / chimera (clone type 8 10 Mar. 2006 2 0 / #6C3) 8 24 Apr. 2006 0 0 / cage 4136 129Sv/Pas CMV-Cre #53 35% male C57BL/6 wild 10  17 May 2006 1 2 35296 (WT) chimera (clone type 35297 (WT) #5C12) 129Sv/Pas 9 10 Apr. 2006 1 NA 34709 (WT) cage 4416 CMV-Cre #91 7 29 May 2006 0 (129Sv/Pas 34710 (WT) female) 34711 (WT) 34712 (WT) 34713 (WT) 34714 (WT) 34715 (WT) 34716 (WT) 35437 (Het partially Cre-excised) 35438 (Het Cre- excised) 35439 (WT) 35440 (WT) 35441 (Het targeted) 35442 (WT) 35443 (WT) The genotype of the animals is given in bracket (see also text below). WT: wild type; Het targeted: heterozygote carrying the targeted Qpct allele; Het partially Cre-excised: heterozygote carrying the Cre-mediated excised Qpct allele and the targeted Qpct allele; Het Cre-excised: heterozygote carrying the Cre-mediated excised Qpct allele.

To assess whether the ES cells have contributed to the germ layer of the chimeras, mouse coat colour markers were used. The coat colour marker of the 129Sv/Pas ES cells is dominant over the black coat colour of the C57BL/6J mice. Therefore, mating the chimeras with C57BL/6J mice should yield either black pups, when the germ cells of the chimera are derived from the C57BL/6J cells, or agouti-coloured pups, when the ES cells have contributed to the germ cells.

The presence of agouti pups in the F1 generation when using C57BL/6J mice for breeding is thus evidence for the germline transmission of the ES cells. In ES cells, only one copy of the autosomal target gene is targeted and consequently, assuming germ line transmission occurs, 50% of the resulting agouti offspring should receive the mutated chromosome from the ES cells and 50% should receive the wild type chromosome.

As documented above, the 20% male chimera (clone #6A3) in cage 4135 seems to be sterile as no litter was observed during the 3 month of breeding, despite mating with several different females.

With the 20% male chimera (clone #6A3) in cage 4134 and the 30% male chimera (clone #6C3) in cage 4136, no germ line transmission was observed as the chimeras gave rise to 2 and 3 black litters, respectively.

Finally, the observation of 2 agouti coloured F1 animals derived from the C57BL/6 wild type female mated with the 35% male chimera (clone #5C12) in cage 4416 is evidence of successful germline transmission of the Qpct mutation. These animals were genotyped as wild type (data not shown).

The F1 animals derived from this male chimera and the 129Sv/Pas CMV-Cre #91 female were genotyped to identify heterozygous mice carrying the constitutive Knock-out allele. As the female background is 129Sv/Pas, the mouse coat colour markers cannot be used. All the F1 animals #34709 to 34716 and 35437 to 35443 were thus genotyped as described below.

10.1 PCR Genotyping of the F1 Generation

DNA was prepared from tail biopsies, taken from the 15 resulting pups and was genotyped by two different PCR strategies:

    • Cre-excision PCR (see FIG. 18) for the detection of the Cre-mediated excision of the LoxP flanked region within the targeted Qpct allele. This PCR yields an amplification product of different size depending on the template used: wild type, targeted or Cre-excised allele.
    • 3′ PCR screening (see FIG. 19) that was already used for detection of a homologous recombination event in ES cells. This PCR strategy detects the non-excised, targeted Qpct allele carrying the exons 4 and 5 flanked by the LoxP-FRT-neomycin-FRT cassette and the distal LoxP site.
      10.2 PCR Screening for Cre-Mediated Excision Event

The Cre-excision PCR was performed using a forward primer TOR2-N hybridizing in the 5′ homology arm, upstream of the distal LoxP site, and a reverse primer TOR2-I1 hybridizing downstream of exon 6 (see FIG. 13). Because of its localisation, this primer pair allows the specific detection of the Cre mediated excision event.

The Cre-excised allele yields an amplification product of 4.4 kb using the above primer pair, whereas the targeted (non-excised) allele yields an amplification product of 9.2 kb (see FIG. 13). Since both primers hybridize on the wild type non-targeted allele, a further amplification product of 7.3 kb will be obtained from all animals corresponding to the wild type allele. A representative example of the genotyping PCR results is illustrated in FIG. 18. As shown in FIG. 18, the PCR always favours the amplification of the allele yielding the smaller PCR product. The large size of amplification product of the heterozygous wild type or the heterozygous targeted allele may result in a poor amplification efficiency.

The genotyping by Cre-excision PCR indicated that among the 15 tested animals born, 2 animals (#35437 and #35438) carry the Cre-excised allele. The other 13 tested animals were either wild type mice or carry the targeted allele. This latter targeted allele was not unequivocally detected by this PCR strategy, because of the preferential amplification of the shorter PCR products corresponding to the Cre-excised and wild type alleles.

10.3 3′ PCR Screening for Homologous Recombination Event

To further confirm the excision of the neomycin cassette and Qpct targeted region in putative excised heterozygotes, the 3′ PCR screening was used to detect the targeted allele. Animals tested positive for this PCR thus still have the neomycin cassette integrated within the Qpct locus.

The 3′ PCR screening was performed using a forward primer TOR2-H2 located within the neomycin selection cassette and a reverse primer TOR2-I2 hybridizing downstream (see FIG. 6). The primer sequences and the optimised PCR condition are listed in tables 4 and 5.

Because of its localisation, this primer set allows the specific detection of the targeted, non-excised Qpct allele, yielding an amplification product of 2900 bp in size in heterozygous offspring carrying the targeted, but non-excised Qpct allele. A representative example of the genotyping PCR results is illustrated in FIG. 19.

The genotyping by 3′ PCR screening indicated that among the 15 tested animals born, 2 animals (#35437 and #35441) carry the targeted allele.

Altogether, the results of these two PCR screenings showed that among the 15 tested animals:

    • 2 animals (#35437 and #35438) yielded amplification products corresponding to the excised allele, suggesting that these mice are heterozygous for the Cre-excised Knock-out allele.
    • Male #35437 showed amplification products corresponding to both the Cre-excised and the targeted non-excised allele. This suggests that this mouse carries an incomplete excision event, meaning that it is a mosaic of excised and non-excised cell types. This animal was sacrificed.
    • Male #35438 showed no amplification product for a PCR specific for the targeted non-excised allele, thus confirming the complete excision event. Therefore, this male is the first heterozygous constitutive Qpct Knock-out mouse characterised. This heterozygous male was then mated with wild type females in order to generate more heterozygous constitutive Qpct Knock-out animals. The results are described below in Example 11.
    • Finally, the female #35441 carries the wild type allele and the targeted non-excised allele but not the Cre-excised allele. This female is thus a heterozygous Qpct targeted animal in which the Qpct targeted region is floxed and still contains the neomycin selection cassette. This female #35441 was mated with a Flp-expressing male, in order to obtain the in vivo excision of the selection cassette. The results are described below in Example 12.

Example 11

Breeding of the First Heterozygous Constitutive Qpct Knock-Out Animal with Wild Type Mice

The first heterozygous constitutive Qpct Knock-out mouse generated (see Example 10) was mated with wild type females in order to generate several heterozygous constitutive Qpct Knock-out animals.

Table 3 below summarizes the results of this breeding.

TABLE 3 Reporting results of first heterozygous constitutive Qpct Knock-out animal breeding. Number Date of Still Male male of pups birth born Males Females. Heterozygous C57BL/6 7 6 Sep. 2006 0 18156 (Het 18160 (WT) constitutive Qpct wild type Cre-excised) 18161 (WT) Knock-out male 18157 (WT) 18162 (WT) (#35438) 18158 (WT) cage 5217 18159 (Het Cre-excised) C57BL/6 9 15 Sep. 2006 2 18242 (WT) 18246 (WT) wild type 18243 (WT) 18244 (Het Cre excised) 18245 (WT) The genotype of the animals is given in bracket (see also text below). WT: wild type; Het Cre-excised: heterozygote carrying the Cre-mediated excised Qpct allele.

As documented above, 12 pups were obtained from this breeding: 8 males and 4 females.

These animals were genotyped to identify additional heterozygous mice carrying the constitutive Knock-out allele.

11.1 PCR Genotyping of the Animals

DNA was prepared from tail biopsies, taken from the 12 resulting pups, and was genotyped by two different PCR strategies:

    • Cre-excision PCR (see FIG. 20, §13.2) for the detection of the Cre-mediated excision of the LoxP flanked region within the targeted Qpct allele. This PCR yields an amplification product of different size depending on the template used: wild type, targeted or Cre-excised allele.
    • 3′ PCR screening (see §13.3) that was already used for the detection of a homologous recombination event in ES cells. This PCR strategy detects the non-excised, targeted Qpct allele carrying the exons 4 and 5 flanked by the LoxP-FRT-neomycin-FRT cassette and the distal LoxP site.
      11.2 PCR Screening for the Cre-Mediated Excision Event

The Cre-excision PCR was performed using a forward primer TOR2-N hybridizing in the 5′ homology arm, upstream of the distal LoxP site, and a reverse primer TOR2-I1 hybridizing downstream of exon 6 (see FIG. 13). Because of its localisation, this primer pair allows the specific detection of the Cre mediated excision event.

The Cre-excised allele yields an amplification product of 4.4 kb using the above primer pair, whereas the targeted (non-excised) allele yields an amplification product of 9.2 kb (see FIG. 13). Since both primers hybridize to the wild type non-targeted allele, a further amplification product of 7.3 kb will be obtained from all animals corresponding to the wild type allele. A representative example of the genotyping PCR results is illustrated in FIG. 20.

The genotyping by Cre-excision PCR indicated that among the 12 tested animals born, 3 animals (#18244, #18156 and #18159) carry the Cre-excised allele. The other 9 tested animals are wild type mice.

11.3 3′ PCR Screening for the Homologous Recombination Event

To obtain a last validation of the excision of the neomycin cassette in the new heterozygous constitutive Qpct Knock-out mice, the 3′ PCR screening was used to detect the targeted allele, as performed for the first heterozygote identified, using the primers TOR2-H2/TOR2-I2.

The 12 animals tested were negative for the TOR2-H2/TOR2-I2 PCR (data not shown). This demonstrated that the neomycin selection cassette was totally deleted from the mutated Qpct allele.

Altogether, the PCR results of these two screening showed that among the 12 tested animals born, the 3 males #18244, #18156 and #18159 are heterozygous constitutive Qpct Knock-out animals. An ultimate Southern blot confirmation of this genotype was performed on these animals.

11.4 Southern Blot Genotyping Confirmation for the Final Heterozygous Constitutive Qpct Knock-Out Animals.

The 5′ Southern blot screening strategy was used to further confirm the genotype of the four F1 heterozygous constitutive Qpct Knock-out animals and validate the PCR genotyping. This 5′ Southern blot is based on a BamHI digestion of the genomic DNA and detection using a 482 bp 5′ internal K probe (5′K probe) (see Example 5, item 1.2).

The results obtained are illustrated in FIG. 21.

As illustrated in FIG. 21, the Southern blot analysis confirmed the PCR results and gave an ultimate demonstration of the genotype of these animals: the 4 males #35438, #18156, #18159 and #18244 are heterozygous constitutive Qpct Knock-out animals.

Example 12

Breeding of a Heterozygous Qpct Targeted Female with an Flp Expressing Male

Previously a female #35441 heterozygous Qpct targeted animal was generated in which the Qpct targeted region is floxed and still contains the neomycin selection cassette (see Example 10). This female #35441 was mated with a Flp-expressing male, in order to obtain the in vivo excision of the selection cassette.

Table 4 below summarizes this breeding.

TABLE 4 Results of the heterozygous targeted Qpct female with Flp-expressing male breeding. Number Date of Still Male male of pups birth born Males Females. C57BL/6 Hetero- 7 21 Aug. 2006 0 17971 (WT) 17975 (Het targeted) CAG-Flp zygous 17972 (Het targeted) 17976 (Het partially expressing male female 17973 (Het partially Flp excised) #262 #35441 Flp excised) 17977 (Het partially 17974 (Het partially Flp excised) Flp excised) The genotype of the animals is given in bracket (see also text below). WT: wild type; Het targeted: heterozygous carrying the targeted Qpct allele; Het partially Flp-excised: heterozygote carrying the Flp-mediated excised Qpct allele and the targeted Qpct allele.

This breeding gave rise to 7 animals that were genotyped to identify heterozygous mice carrying the conditional Knock-out allele.

12.1 PCR Genotyping of the Animals

DNA was prepared from tail biopsies, taken from the 7 resulting pups and was genotyped by two different PCR strategies:

    • Flp-excision PCR (see FIG. 22, Example 12, 2) for the detection of the Flp-mediated excision of the neomycin selection cassette. This PCR yields an amplification product of different sizes depending on the template used: wild type, targeted or Cre-excised allele.
    • 3′ PCR screening (see FIG. 23, Example 12, 3) that was already used for detection of a homologous recombination event in ES cells. This PCR strategy detects the non-excised, targeted Qpct allele carrying the exons 4 and 5 flanked by LoxP-FRT-neomycin-FRT cassette and the distal LoxP site.
      12.2 PCR Screening for the Flp-Mediated Excision Event

The Flp-excision PCR was performed using a forward primer TOR2-N2 hybridizing in the long 5′ homology arm, upstream of the neomycin selection cassette, and a reverse primer TOR2-I4 hybridizing in the short 3′ homology arm, downstream of the neomycin selection cassette (see FIG. 13, Example 5.2). Due to the primer set localisation, this PCR allows the detection of the Flp-mediated excision of the neomycin selection cassette.

The Flp-excised allele should yield an amplification product of 538 bp using the above primer pair, whereas the targeted (non-excised) allele should yield an amplification product of 2211 bp (see FIG. 13). Since both primers hybridize to the wild type non-targeted allele, a further amplification product of 419 bp will be obtained from all animals corresponding to the wild type allele. The genotyping PCR results are illustrated in FIG. 22.

The genotyping by Flp-excision PCR indicated that among the 7 tested animals born, 4 animals (#17973, #17974, #1796 and #17977) carried the Flp-excised allele. The other 3 animals tested were either wild type mice or carried the targeted allele

12.3 3′ PCR Screening for the Homologous Recombination Event

To assess the complete excision of the neomycin cassette in the animals carrying the Flp-mediated excised allele, the 3′ PCR screening (with TOR2-H2/TOR2-I2 primers) was used to detect the targeted allele. Animals tested positive for this PCR thus still have the neomycin cassette integrated within the Qpct locus.

The genotyping by 3′ PCR screening indicated that among the 7 tested animals born, 6 animals (#17972 to #17977) carry the targeted allele.

Altogether, the results of these two PCR screenings showed that among the 7 tested animals born:

    • The male #17971 carried only the wild type Qpct allele. This animal was sacrificed.
    • The animals #17972 and #17975 carried the wild type allele and the targeted non-excised allele but not the Flp-excised allele. These 2 animals are thus heterozygous Qpct targeted animal in which the Qpct targeted region is floxed and still contains the neomycin selection cassette. These animals were sacrificed.
    • Finally, 4 animals (2 males #17973 and #17974 and 2 females #17976 and #17977) yielded amplification products corresponding to the Flp-mediated excised allele, wild type allele and Qpct targeted allele. This suggests that these mice carry an incomplete excision of the neomycin selection cassette, meaning that they consist in a mosaic of excised and non-excised cell types. These animals were then bred with wild type mice in order to generate the heterozygous conditional Qpct Knock-out mouse line.

Example 13

Breeding of the Partially Flp-Mediated Neomycin Excised Animals

13.1 Breeding

Among the 4 partially Flp-mediated neomycin excised animals generated, the male #17973 was mated with wild type mice in order to segregate the targeted Qpct allele from the conditional Qpct Knock-out allele and thus generated pure heterozygous conditional Qpct Knock-out mice. The results of this breeding is summarised in table 5 below.

TABLE 5 Results of the heterozygous partially Flp excised Qpct male with wild type females breeding. Number Date of Still Male male of pups birth born Males Females. F1 heterozygous C57BL/6J 14 2 Nov. 2006 0 18823 (Het Flp 18832 (WT) partially Flp wild type excised) 18833 (Het partially excised female 18824 (Het Flp Flp excised) #17973 C57BL/6J excised) 18834 (WT) wild type 18825 (Het Flp 18835 (WT) female excised) 18836 (Het Flp 18826 (Het excised) partially Flp excised) 18827 (WT) 18828 (Het Flp excised) 18829 (Het targeted) 18830 (Het Flp excised) 18831 (WT) The genotype of the animals is given in brackets (see also text below). WT: wild type; Het targeted: heterozygote carrying the targeted Qpct allele; Het partially Flp-excised: heterozygote carrying the Flp-mediated excised Qpct allele and the targeted Qpct allele; Het Flp-excised: heterozygote carrying the Flp-mediated excised Qpct allele.

13.2 PCR Screening for the Flp-Mediated Excision Event

The Flp-excision screening was performed as previously described using the TOR2-N2/TOR2-I4 PCR.

The Flp-excised allele yields an amplification product of 538 bp using the above primer pair, whereas the targeted (non-excised) allele yields an amplification product of 2211 bp (see FIG. 13). Since both primers hybridize to the wild type non-targeted allele, a further amplification product of 419 bp will be obtained from all animals corresponding to the wild type allele. A representative example of the genotyping PCR results is illustrated in FIG. 24.

As illustrated in FIG. 24, the genotyping by Flp-excision PCR indicated that among the 14 tested animals, 8 animals (#18823, #18824, #18825, #18826, #18828, #18830, #18833 and #18836) carried the Flp-excised allele. The other 6 tested animals were either wild type mice or carry the targeted allele.

13.3 3′ PCR Screening for Homologous Recombination Event

To assess the complete excision of the neomycin cassette in the animals carrying the Flp-mediated excised allele, the 3′ PCR screening (with TOR2-H2/TOR2-I2 primers) was used to detect the targeted allele. Animals tested positive for this PCR thus still have the neomycin cassette integrated within the Qpct locus.

The genotyping by 3′ PCR screening indicated that among the 14 tested animals born, 3 animals (#18826, #18829 and #18833) carry the targeted allele.

Altogether, the results of these two PCR screenings showed that among the 14 tested animals born:

    • The animals #18827, #18831, #18832, #18834 and #18835 carry only the wild type Qpct allele. These animals were sacrificed.
    • The animal #18829 carried the wild type allele and the targeted non-excised allele but not the Flp-excised allele. This animal is thus a heterozygous Qpct targeted animal in which the Qpct targeted region is floxed and still contains the neomycin selection cassette. This animal was sacrificed.
    • The animals #18826 and #18833 yielded amplification products corresponding to the Flp-mediated excised allele, wild type allele and Qpct targeted allele. This suggests that these mice carried an incomplete excision of the neomycin selection cassette, meaning that they consist in a mosaic of excised and non-excised cell types. These animals were sacrificed.
    • Finally, 6 animals (5 males #18823, #18824, #18825, #18828, #18830 and the female #18836) yielded amplification products corresponding to both the Flp excised allele and the wild-type allele. These mice thus carry a complete excision of the neomycin selection cassette and are pure heterozygous conditional Qpct Knock-out animals. An ultimate Southern blot confirmation of this genotype was performed on these animals.
      13.4 Southern Blot Genotyping Confirmation for the Final Heterozygous Conditional Qpct Knock-Out Animals.

The 3′ Southern blot screening strategy was used to further test the genotype of the three F1 heterozygous conditional Qpct Knock-out animals and confirm the PCR genotyping. This 3′ Southern blot is based on a SwaI digestion of the genomic DNA and detection using a 406 bp 3′ internal R probe (3′R probe) (see Exampled 4, 1.2, 7, 1.2 and FIG. 11).

The results obtained are illustrated in FIG. 26.

As illustrated in FIG. 26, the Southern blot analysis confirmed the PCR results and gave an ultimate demonstration of these animals genotype: the 3 males #18823, #18824 and #18825 are heterozygous conditional Qpct Knock-out animals.

The strategy for the development a conditional Qpct Knock-out model was achieved by flanking the targeted exons 4 and 5 with two LoxP sites, allowing its ubiquitous or tissue specific deletion under the action of the Cre-recombinase.

The inventors succeeded in the amplification, cloning and sequencing of the two homology arms needed for the generation of the TOR2-HR targeting vector.

They isolated and sequenced for both homology arms at least one clone devoid of any mutation.

Theses clones were used for the construction of the targeting vector.

The targeting and positive control vectors were generated following state of the art methodologies and according to the strategy presented above.

PCR and Southern blot screening strategies were designed and validated to identify the following events:

    • Homologous recombination event at the Qpct locus, at both 5′ and 3′ end of the targeting vector.
    • Flp-mediated excision of the neomycin selection cassette, allowing the generation of the final conditional Qpct Knock-out allele.
    • Cre-mediated excision of the Qpct exons 4 and 5, allowing the generation of the constitutive Qpct Knock-out allele.

Following the TOR2-HR targeting vector electroporation, 421 G418 resistant clones were isolated and amplified in 96-well plates in duplicate. The PCR and Southern blot screening of these ES cell clones allowed the full characterisation of 7 clones as correctly targeted: clones #5C5, #5C12, #6A3 #6C3, #15B2, #10B2 and #11B4.

Based on the ES cell screening results and on morphological criteria, the seven ES cell clones 5C5, #5C12, #6A3 #6C3, #15B2, #10B2 and #11B4 were selected for the blastocyst injections. These ES cell clones were injected and re-implanted into a total of 374 blastocysts, giving rise to a total of 17 male chimeras with the following rate of chimerism:

    • Clone #6A3 gave rise to 8 male chimeras with a percentage of chimerism ranging from 5% to 20%.
    • Clone #6C3 gave rise to 3 male chimeras with a percentage of chimerism ranging from 5% to 30%.
    • Clone #5C12 gave rise to 2 male chimeras with a percentage of chimerism of 35% and 15%.
    • Clone #5C5 did not give rise to any male chimera.
    • Clone #15B2 gave rise to 1 male chimera with a percentage of chimerism of 75%.
    • Clone #10B2 did not give rise to any pup.
    • Clone #11B4 gave rise to 3 male chimeras with a percentage of chimerism of 75%, 35% and 8%.

Four chimeric males (displaying 20% to 35% chimerism, derived from ES clone #6A3, #6C3 and #5C12) were mated with wild type C57BL/6J females (health status SOPF—Specific and Opportunist Pathogen Free) to obtain the germline transmission and generate Qpct targeted heterozygous animals. The chimeras were also bred with Flp or Cre deleter females (health status SOPF—Specific and Opportunist Pathogen Free) to obtain the deletion of the neomycin selection cassette and Qpct exons 4-5 and selection cassette, respectively.

This breeding resulted in the generation of 17 F1 pups. These mice were screened using PCR and Southern blot screening, allowing the characterization of:

    • 1 male #35438 carrying the Cre-mediated neomycin excised Qcpt allele. This male was the first F1 heterozygous constitutive Qpct Knock-out mouse. It was mated with wild type females to generate 3 additional heterozygous constitutive Qpct Knock-out mice.
    • 1 female #35441 carrying the targeted allele. This female represented F1 heterozygous Qpct targeted mouse and was mated with Flp-expressing mice in order to obtain the in vivo deletion of the neomycin selection cassette.

The breeding of the first heterozygous constitutive Qpct Knock-out male #35438 with wild type females allowed the generation of 3 additional heterozygous constitutive Qpct Knock-out males #18156, #18159 and #18244.

The breeding of the heterozygous targeted Qpct Knock-out female #35441 with a C57BL/6J CCAG-Flp-expressing deleter male gave rise to 7 animals among which 4 animals (2 males #17973 and #17974 and 2 females #17976 and #17977) carrying both the Qpct targeted allele and the Flp-mediated neomycin excised Qpct allele (conditional Qpct Knock-out allele) in addition to the wild type allele. These animals thus underwent a partial excision of the neomycin selection cassette, meaning that the Flp-recombinase resulted in the deletion of the selection cassette in some but not all in these F1 animals.

One of these mosaic animals, partially Flp-mediated excised, namely the male #17973 was then mated with wild type females, in order to segregate the Flp-mediated excised allele (conditional Qpct Knock-out allele) from the targeted allele still containing the neomycin selection cassette. This third F1 breeding gave rise to a new series of 14 F1 animals. Their PCR and Southern blot genotyping allowed the characterisation of 6 animals (5 males #18823, #18824, #18825, #18828, #18830 and the female #18836) displaying both the Flp excised allele and the wild-type allele. These mice thus carry a complete excision of the neomycin selection cassette and are pure heterozygous conditional Qpct Knock-out animals.

Example 14

Generation of a Mouse Model Carrying a Constitutive Knock-Out Mutation in the Qpct Gene

14.1 Targeting Strategy and Generation of the QpctKO Mouse Line PBD2

For the development of a mouse line with inactivated Qpct protein function, mouse embryonal stem cells (ES cells, derived from line 129SvPas) were genetically engineered and clones were selected which carried in the genome

    • a neomycin selection cassette flanked by FRT sites and followed by a LoxP site inserted into Qpct intron 5 and
    • a distal LoxP site located in Qpct intron 3

ES cells were injected into blastocycts and chimeras were generated via embryo transfer. For removal of the neomycin selection cassette the chimeras were mated to Flp-expressing animals followed by breeding of the pups with Cre-expressing animals for deletion of Qpct1 exons 4 and 5. Pups were identified which are heterozygous for the Qpct locus and carry a Qpct allele where exons 4 and 5 are deleted in addition to the wildtype allele (FIG. 27). These animals served as the founders for mouse line Pbd2.

14.2 Genotyping Assay for Mouse Line Pbd2

For PCR assessment of the Qpct genotypes of line Pbd2 the following oligonucleotide primers were designed:

Primer SEQ ID name Sequence binding site No Pbd2-1 GTCCGGTAAGGTGAGGAGAA Qpct intron 19 3 Pbd2-2 TGATGTGTGCGTTTCAGAGA Qpct intron 20 5 Pbd2- CCAGAGACATCCTGGTAAAACA Qptc exon 21 WT1 4

In a standard PCR reaction on 50 ng chromosomal DNA containing primers Pbd2-1, Pbd2-2 and Pbd2-WT1, the wildtype allele can be detected as an approx. 735 bp fragment whereas the targeted knockout allele is detected as an approx. 525 bp fragment (s. FIG. 28).

Example 15

Characterization of Mice Carrying a Constitutive Knock-Out Mutation in the Qpct Gene

In order to proof that the generation of the knock-out animals was successful, plasma of the wild-type, heterozygous and homozygous animals with respect to the genetic manipulation was analyzed and the enzymatic activity of Qpct was measured. If the strategy was successful, then a significant lowering or depletion of Qpct-activity was expected.

The Qpct-activity in the plasma was determined, applying a method, which is based on detection of formation of L-pGlu-beta-naphthylamine from L-glutaminyl-beta-naphthylamine catalyzed by Qpct in plasma (Cynis, H. et al. 2006 Biochim Biophys Acta 1764, 1618-1625). Briefly, the assay is based on conversion of H-Gln-βNA to pGlu-βNA. The sample consisted of 50 μM H-Gln-βNA in 25 mM MOPS, pH 7.0, 0.1 mM N-Ethylmaleinimide (NEM) and enzyme solution in a final volume of 1 ml. Substrate and NEM were pre-incubated for 15 min at 30° C. The sample was centrifuged at 4° C. for 20 min at 16.000×g. The reaction was started by addition of 10011 plasma sample. The reaction mix was further incubated at 30° C. and constantly shaken at 300 rpm in a thermomixer (Eppendorf, Germany). Test samples were removed at time points of 0, 5, 10, 15, 22, 30 and 45 min. The reaction was immediately stopped by boiling for 4 min. Test samples were cooled on ice and stored at −20° C. For analysis, samples were thawed on ice and centrifuged at 4° C. for 20 min at 16,000×g. All HPLC measurements were performed using a RP18 LiChroCART HPLC-Cartridge and the HPLC system D-7000 (Merck-Hitachi). Briefly, 20 μl of the sample were injected and separated by increasing concentration of solvent A (acetonitrile containing 0.1% TFA) from 8% to 20% in solvent B (H2O containing 0.1% TFA).

Qpct activity was quantified from a standard curve of pGlu-βNA (Bachem, Bubendorf, Switzerland) determined under assay conditions.

The Qpct-activity depending on the genotype of the animals is depicted in FIG. 29. Caused by the complete loss of a functional Qpct gene in the homozygous Qpct knock-out animals, no Qpct-activity can be detected in plasma. In heterozygous animals, i.e., animals, which still carry one intact allele of Qpct together with one functionally destroyed allele, approximately 60% of the activity in plasma of wild-type animals is still left.

The results thus proof, that: 1. The strategy to target the Qpct allele as depicted in examples 1 to 14 was successful and sufficient to provoke a complete loss of Qpct in these animals. 2. There is a gene-dose dependency of Qpct-activity observed. Loss of one copy already results in partial loss of Qpct activity. This observation is important for following studies involving cross-breeding of these animals with other animal models of human diseases to proof attempts to generate drugs targeting Qpct activity. 3. Importantly, an enzymatically active QPCT is not necessary for development of viable pups and development of animals, which proofs that the pharmacological inhibition of Qpct does not has obvious deleterious side effects.

In order to further characterize the effects of the depletion of Qpct on the function of hormonal regulation cascades, the concentrations of testosterone and thyroxine were determined in serum from pbd2 mice.

Testosterone (6,17-dodecahydrocyclopenta[α] phenanthren-3-one) is the principal male sex hormone and a steroid hormone, which is primarily secreted in the testes of males and the ovaries of females. Testosterone is also secreted by the adrenal glands. Testosterone plays a key role in health and well-being as well as in sexual functioning. The release of sexual hormones from the gonads is regulated by the hypophyseal hormones LH and FSH. The release of these pituitary hormones, in turn, is stimulated by the hypothalamic hormone gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). GnRH (Gonadotropin-releasing hormone) is secreted from parvicellular neurons in the arcuate nucleus into the median eminence. GnRH then enters the hypophyseal portal system, traveling in the long vein until reaching the anterior pituitary, where it acts on gonadotropes to release LH (luteinizing hormone) and FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) back into the blood stream. LH and FSH both act on the gonads to produce varying effects, including release of sex hormones and keeping the gonadal integrity. By that cascade of events involving secretion of GnRH, pituitary and gonadal hormones the so-called hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis (HPG) axis is built. Similar to other hormonal axes, there is a negative feed-back regulation on the secretion of gonadotopes. GnRH is N-terminally modified by pGlu and is therefore a substrate of Qpct. A reduction of the pGlu-formation at the N-terminus of GnRH is intended to result in deactivation of the hormone and, consequently, in disturbance of the HPG axis and deregulated testosterone concentrations.

The effect of depletion of Qpct on the testosterone concentration is depicted in FIG. 30. The concentration of testosterone in serum of male mice was determined applying a competitive ELISA method (IBL, Hamburg, Germany, Cat.-no. RE52631). The determinations were performed according to the instructions of the manufacturer.

The results show no difference in the testosterone concentration between wild-type and QPCT knock-out mice. Even a total loss of QPCT does not result in disturbance of the gonadal hormone, proving that pharmacological inhibition of Qpct does not result in unwanted side effects on the reproductive axis.

Thyroxine (3,5,3′,5′-tetraiodothyronine, T4) is a hormone, which is secreted by the follicular cells of the thyroid gland. T4 plays a role in the control of metabolic processes. Thyroxine increases cardiac output, heart rate and the basal metabolic rate and potentiates brain development. The secretion of the thyroid hormones thyroxin and triiodothyronine (T3) is regulated via the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis. The hypothalamus senses low circulating levels of thyroid hormone and responds by releasing thyrotropin releasing hormone (TRH). The tripeptide TRH is N-terminally modified by pGlu and is therefore a substrate of Qpct. The TRH stimulates the pituitary to produce thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). The TSH, in turn, stimulates the thyroid to produce thyroid hormones. A reduction of the pGlu-formation at the N-terminus of TRH is intended to result in deactivation of the hormone and, consequently, in disturbance of the HPT axis and deregulated thyroxine concentrations.

The effect of depletion of Qpct on the thyroxine concentration is depicted in FIG. 31. The concentration of thyroxine in plasma of the mice was determined applying a competitive ELISA method (IBL, Hamburg, Germany, Cat.-no. RE55261). The determinations were performed according to the instructions of the manufacturer.

The results imply a slight but statistically not significant reduction of the T4 concentration in homozygous constitutive QPCT knock-out mice. In heterozygous mice, no difference of the thyroxine level was observed. The results suggest that a partial reduction of Qpct does not influence the HPT-axis at all. Even a total loss of QPCT does not result in disturbance of the thyroid hormone, proving that pharmacological inhibition of Qpct does not result in unwanted side effects.

Example 16

Transwell Chemotaxis Assay

Human acute monocytic leukaemia cell line THP-1 was cultured in RPI1640, 10% FBS, in a humidified atmosphere of 5% CO2 at 37° C. The chemotactic assay was performed using 24-well TransWell plates with a pore size of 5 μm (Corning). 600 μl of chemoattractant solution were applied to the lower chamber. Serum-free RPMI was applied as negative control. THP-1 cells were harvested and resuspended in RPMI 1640 in a concentration of 1*106 cells/100 μl and applied in 100 μl aliquots to the upper chamber. Cells were allowed to migrate towards the chemoattractant for 2 h at 37° C. Subsequently, cells from the upper chamber were discarded and the lower chamber was mixed with 50 μl 70 mM EDTA in PBS and incubated for 15 min at 37° C. to release cells attached to the membrane. Afterwards, migrated cells were counted using a cell counter system (Scharfe System, Reutlingen). The chemotactic index was calculated by dividing cells migrated to the stimulus from cells migrated to the negative control.

Claims

1. A mouse comprising mouse cells comprising
a glutaminyl peptide cyclotransferase (Qpct) gene carrying a knock-out mutation;
wherein
the Qpct gene is a murine Qpct gene;
the murine Qpct gene comprises a nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID No. 22; and
the mouse has decreased Qpct activity compared to a wild-type mouse.
a glutaminyl peptide cyclotransferase (Qpct) gene carrying a knock-out mutation;
wherein
the Qpct gene is a murine Qpct gene;
the murine Qpct gene comprises a nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID No. 22; and
the mouse has decreased Qpct activity compared to a wild-type mouse.
the Qpct gene is a murine Qpct gene;
the murine Qpct gene comprises a nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID No. 22; and
the mouse has decreased Qpct activity compared to a wild-type mouse.
2. The mouse of claim 1, wherein the animal is heterozygous for the Qpct gene carrying the knock-out mutation.
3. The mouse of claim 1, wherein the animal is homozygous for the Qpct gene carrying the knock-out mutation.
4. The mouse of claim 1, wherein the mouse is a transgenic mouse and the Qpct gene is a recombinant gene.
5. The mouse of claim 1, wherein the Qpct gene carries a constitutive knock-out mutation.
6. The mouse of claim 1, wherein the Qpct gene carries a conditional knock-out mutation.
7. The mouse of claim 1, for use in determining effects of target compounds on Qpct-related disorders and/or diseases.
8. The mouse of claim 1, wherein the animal carries at least one Qpct allele where exons 4 and 5 are deleted.
9. The mouse of claim 8, wherein said Qpct allele comprises the nucleotide sequence of SEQ ID No. 23.
10. The mouse of claim 8, wherein the mouse is a mouse of the mouse line Pbd2.
11. The mouse of claim 8, wherein the Qpct gene carrying a knock-out mutation is operably linked to a tissue-specific promoter.
12. The mouse of claim 1, wherein
the mouse demonstrates a phenotype comprising reduced Qpct activity compared to a wild type mouse; and
the reduced Qpct activity can be further reduced with administration of a Qpct inhibitor.
the mouse demonstrates a phenotype comprising reduced Qpct activity compared to a wild type mouse; and
the reduced Qpct activity can be further reduced with administration of a Qpct inhibitor.
13. A cell or cell line derived from the mouse according to claim 1.
14. A method for screening for therapeutic agents that inhibit or promote Qpct activity comprising
(a) administering test agents to the mouse of claim 1,
(b) evaluating the effects of the test agent on the phenotype of the mouse, and
(c) selecting a test agent which inhibits or promotes glutaminyl peptide cyclotransferase (Qpct) activity.
(a) administering test agents to the mouse of claim 1,
(b) evaluating the effects of the test agent on the phenotype of the mouse, and
(c) selecting a test agent which inhibits or promotes glutaminyl peptide cyclotransferase (Qpct) activity.
15. A method for analyzing the disease-related physiological function of Qpct catalysis with regard to pyroglutamate-peptide formation comprising
(a) administering of test agents to the mouse of claim 1,
(b) evaluating the pyroglutamate-peptide concentration and effects of the test agent on the phenotype of the mouse, and
(c) selecting a test agent which inhibits or promotes pyroglutamate-peptide activity.
(a) administering of test agents to the mouse of claim 1,
(b) evaluating the pyroglutamate-peptide concentration and effects of the test agent on the phenotype of the mouse, and
(c) selecting a test agent which inhibits or promotes pyroglutamate-peptide activity.
16. The mouse of claim 1, wherein the Qpct is expressed in specific tissue, particular points in time only, or specific tissue and particular points in time only.
17. A screening method for biologically active compounds that inhibit or promote Qpct activity in vivo comprising steps of:
(a) administering a test compound to a mouse model, which is specific for the treatment of at least one disease selected from Mild Cognitive Impairment, Alzheimer's disease, neurodegeneration in Down Syndrome, Familial Danish Dementia, Familial British Dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, restenosis, and pancreatitis;
(b) determining the effect of the test compound in said mouse model;
(c) comparing the effect of the test compound in said mouse model with the effect of the glutaminyl peptide cyclotransferase (Qpct) gene disruption in the Qpct knock-out mouse of claim 1; and
(d) selecting a test compound that in said mouse model alleviate the specific disease similar to the effect of the Qpct gene disruption in the Qpct knock-out mouse of claim 1.
(a) administering a test compound to a mouse model, which is specific for the treatment of at least one disease selected from Mild Cognitive Impairment, Alzheimer's disease, neurodegeneration in Down Syndrome, Familial Danish Dementia, Familial British Dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, restenosis, and pancreatitis;
(b) determining the effect of the test compound in said mouse model;
(c) comparing the effect of the test compound in said mouse model with the effect of the glutaminyl peptide cyclotransferase (Qpct) gene disruption in the Qpct knock-out mouse of claim 1; and
(d) selecting a test compound that in said mouse model alleviate the specific disease similar to the effect of the Qpct gene disruption in the Qpct knock-out mouse of claim 1.
18. The screening method of claim 17, wherein said mouse model is specific for a diseases selected from the group consisting of Mild Cognitive Impairment, Alzheimer's disease, neurodegeneration in Down Syndrome, Familial Danish Dementia and Familial British Dementia.
19. The screening method of claim 18, wherein said mouse model is specific for Alzheimer's disease.
20. The screening method of any of claim 17, wherein said mouse model is selected from the group consisting of PDAPP, Tg2576, APP23, TgCRND8, PSEN1M146V or PSEN1M146L, PSAPP, APPDutch, BRI-Aβ40 and BRI-Aβ42, JNPL3, TauP301S, TauV337M, TauR406W, rTg4510, Htau, TAPP and 3×TgAD.
21. The screening method of claim 17, wherein the effect of the test compounds is the lowering of the [pGlu3]Aβ3-40/42/43 or [pGlu11]Aβ40/42/43 peptides.
22. The screening method of claim 17, wherein the effect of the test compounds is the lowering of the [pGlu3]Aβ3-40 peptides.
23. The screening method of claim 17, wherein the effect of the test compounds is the lowering of the [pGlu3]Aβ3-42 peptides.
24. The screening method of claim 17, wherein said mouse model is specific for a disease selected from the group consisting of rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, restenosis, and pancreatitis.
25. The screening method of claim 24, wherein said mouse model is specific for rheumatoid arthritis.
26. The screening method of claim 24, wherein said mouse model is specific for atherosclerosis.
27. The screening method of claim 24, wherein said mouse model is selected from the group consisting of the apolipoprotein E knock out mouse model and the thioglycollate-induced inflammation model in mice.
28. The screening method of claim 24, wherein the effect of the test compounds is the inhibition of the chemotaxis of THP-1 cells.
29. The screening method of claim 24, wherein the effect of the test compounds is the inhibition of the formation of pGlu-MCP-1.
30. The mouse of claim 1, wherein the mouse demonstrates a phenotype comprising reduced or eliminated Qpct activity in a tissue compared to a wild type mouse.
31. The mouse of claim 1, wherein the mouse demonstrates a phenotype comprising reduced Qpct activity in a tissue compared to a wild type mouse.
32. The mouse of claim 1, wherein
the mouse is heterozygous for the Qpct gene carrying the knock-out mutation; and
the mouse demonstrates a phenotype comprising reduced Qpct activity in a tissue compared to a wild type mouse.
the mouse is heterozygous for the Qpct gene carrying the knock-out mutation; and
the mouse demonstrates a phenotype comprising reduced Qpct activity in a tissue compared to a wild type mouse.
33. The mouse of claim 1, wherein the mouse demonstrates a phenotype comprising substantially no Qpct activity in a tissue compared to a wild type mouse.
34. The mouse of claim 1, wherein
the mouse is homozygous for the Qpct gene carrying the knock-out mutation; and
the mouse demonstrates a phenotype comprising eliminated Qpct activity in a tissue compared to a wild type mouse.
the mouse is homozygous for the Qpct gene carrying the knock-out mutation; and
the mouse demonstrates a phenotype comprising eliminated Qpct activity in a tissue compared to a wild type mouse.
35. The mouse of claim 1, wherein the Qpct gene carrying the knock-out mutation is localized in a specific tissue of the mouse.
36. A method for producing a mouse model for Alzheimer's disease comprising:
breeding the mouse of claim 1 with a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease to obtain a cross-bred mouse comprising the Qpct knock-out mutation;
wherein the cross-bred mouse has decreased Qpct activity compared to the mouse model of Alzheimer's disease.
breeding the mouse of claim 1 with a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease to obtain a cross-bred mouse comprising the Qpct knock-out mutation;
wherein the cross-bred mouse has decreased Qpct activity compared to the mouse model of Alzheimer's disease.
37. The method of claim 36, wherein the mouse model of Alzheimer's disease is selected from the group consisting of PDAPP, Tg2576, APP23, TgCRND8, PSEN1M146V or PSEN1M146L, PSAPP, APPDutch, BRI-Aβ40 and BRI-Aβ42, JNPL3, TauP301S, TauV337M, TauR406W, rTg4510, Htau, TAPP and 3×TgAD.