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Genetics. 2002 Nov;162(3):1341-53.

Quantitative trait loci for maternal performance for offspring survival in mice.

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Department of Biology/Genetics, IB, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil.


Maternal performance refers to the effect that the environment provided by mothers has on their offspring's phenotypes, such as offspring survival and growth. Variations in maternal behavior and physiology are responsible for variations in maternal performance, which in turn affects offspring survival. In our study we found females that failed to nurture their offspring and showed abnormal maternal behaviors. The genetic architecture of maternal performance for offspring survival was investigated in 241 females of an F(2) intercross of the SM/J and LG/J inbred mouse strains. Using interval-mapping methods we found two quantitative trait loci (QTL) affecting maternal performance at D2Mit17 + 6 cM and D7Mit21 + 2 cM on chromosomes 2 and 7, respectively. In a two-way genome-wide epistasis scan we found 15 epistatic interactions involving 23 QTL distributed across all chromosomes except 12, 16, and 17. These loci form several small sets of interacting QTL, suggesting a complex set of mechanisms operating to determine maternal performance for offspring survival. Taken all together and correcting for the large number of significant factors, QTL and their interactions explain almost 35% of the phenotypic variation for maternal performance for offspring survival in this cross. This study allowed the identification of many possible candidate genes, as well as the relative size of gene effects and patterns of gene action affecting maternal performance in mice. Detailed behavior observation of mothers from later generations suggests that offspring survival in the first week is related to maternal success in building nests, grooming their pups, providing milk, and/or manifesting aggressive behavior against intruders.

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