Analysis of breeding and pathology helps refine management practices of a large-scale N′-ethyl-N′-nitrosourea mouse mutagenesis programme

A. P.L. Smith, S. Polley, S. Wells, M. Stewart, L. Vizor, J. Humphreys, M. V. Warren, N. Dear, M. T. Cheeseman

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3 Citations (Scopus)


N′-ethyl-N′-nitrosourea (ENU) is a powerful germline mutagen used in conjunction with phenotype-driven screens to generate novel mouse mutants. ENU also induces genetic lesions in somatic cells and dosage requires optimization between maximum germline mutation rate versus induced sterility and tumourigenesis that compromise the welfare and fecundity of the ENU-treated males. Here, we present our experience with BALB/cAnNCrl and C57BL/6J mice in terms of the pathology induced by ENU and its impact on breeding. In both mouse strains, morbidity and mortality rises with ENU dose. In more than 75% of C57BL/6J males, morbidity and mortality were attributable to the development of malignant T-lymphoblastic lymphoma. Approximately 50% of ENU-treated BALB/cAnNCrl males develop early malignant T-lymphoblastic lymphoma, but the cohort that survives develops late-onset lung carcinoma. Within strains, the latency of these clinically important tumour(s) was not dosage-dependent, but the proportion of mice developing tumours and consequently removed from the breeding programme increased with ENU dosage. The median number of offspring per ENU-treated C57BL/6J male in standard matings with C3H/HeH females decreased with increasing dosage. The two most important underlying causes for lower male fecundity were increased infertility in the highest dosage group and reduced numbers of litters born to the remaining fertile C57BL/6J males due to a higher incidence of morbidity. These findings have allowed us to refine breeding strategy. To maximize the number of offspring from each ENU-treated male, we now rotate productive males between two cages to expose them to more females. This optimizes the number of mutation carrying offspring while reducing the number of ENU-treated males that must be generated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalLaboratory Animals
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Jan 2009


  • Breeding management
  • Mouse mutagenesis
  • N′-ethyl-n′-nitrosourea
  • Pathology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • veterinary(all)

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