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J Neurosci. 2001 May 15;21(10):3503-14.

Complex trait analysis of the hippocampus: mapping and biometric analysis of two novel gene loci with specific effects on hippocampal structure in mice.

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  • 1Center for Neuroscience, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, Tennessee 38163, USA.


Notable differences in hippocampal structure are associated with intriguing differences in development and behavioral capabilities. We explored genetic and environmental factors that modulate hippocampal size, structure, and cell number using sets of C57BL/6J (B6) and DBA/2J (D2) mice; their F1 and F2 intercrosses (n = 180); and 35 lines of BXD recombinant inbred (RI) strains. Hippocampal weights of the parental strains differ by 20%. Estimates of granule cell number also differ by approximately 20%. Hippocampal weights of RI strains range from 21 to 31 mg, and those of individual F2 mice range from 23 to 36 mg (bilateral weights). Volume and granule cell number are well correlated (r = 0.7-0.8). Significant variation is associated with differences in age and sex. The hippocampus increases in weight by 0.24 mg per month, and those of males are 0.55 mg heavier (bilateral) than those of females. Heritability of variation is approximately 50%, and half of this genetic variation is generated by two quantitative trait loci that map to chromosome 1 (Hipp1a: genome-wide p < 0.005, between 65 and 100 cM) and to chromosome 5 (Hipp5a, p < 0.05, between 15 and 40 cM). These are among the first gene loci known to produce normal variation in forebrain structure. Hipp1a and Hipp5a individually modulate hippocampal weight by 1.0-2.0 mg, an effect size greater than that generated by age or sex. The Hipp gene loci modulate neuron number in the dentate gyrus, collectively shifting the population up or down by as much as 200,000 cells. Candidate genes for the Hipp loci include Rxrg and Fgfr3.

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