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Genes Brain Behav. 2005 Jun;4(4):209-28.

Heritability, correlations and in silico mapping of locomotor behavior and neurochemistry in inbred strains of mice.

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Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, NY, USA.


The midbrain dopamine system mediates normal and pathologic behaviors related to motor activity, attention, motivation/reward and cognition. These are complex, quantitative traits whose variation among individuals is modulated by genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors. Conventional genetic methods have identified several genes important to this system, but the majority of factors contributing to the variation remain unknown. To understand these genetic and environmental factors, we initiated a study measuring 21 behavioral and neurochemical traits in 15 common inbred mouse strains. We report trait data, heritabilities and genetic and non-genetic correlations between pheno-types. In general, the behavioral traits were more heritable than neurochemical traits, and both genetic and non-genetic correlations within these trait sets were high. Surprisingly, there were few significant correlations between the behavioral and the individual neurochemical traits. However, striatal serotonin and one measure of dopamine turnover (DOPAC/DA) were highly correlated with most behavioral measures. The variable accounting for the most variation in behavior was mouse strain and not a specific neurochemical measure, suggesting that additional genetic factors remain to be determined to account for these behavioral differences. We also report the prospective use of the in silico method of quantitative trait loci (QTL) analysis and demonstrate difficulties in the use of this method, which failed to detect significant QTLs for the majority of these traits. These data serve as a framework for further studies of correlations between different midbrain dopamine traits and as a guide for experimental cross designs to identify QTLs and genes that contribute to these traits.

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