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Genetics. 2006 Oct;174(2):959-84. Epub 2006 Aug 3.

Genetic and environmental effects on complex traits in mice.

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Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom.


The interaction between genotype and environment is recognized as an important source of experimental variation when complex traits are measured in the mouse, but the magnitude of that interaction has not often been measured. From a study of 2448 genetically heterogeneous mice, we report the heritability of 88 complex traits that include models of human disease (asthma, type 2 diabetes mellitus, obesity, and anxiety) as well as immunological, biochemical, and hematological phenotypes. We show that environmental and physiological covariates are involved in an unexpectedly large number of significant interactions with genetic background. The 15 covariates we examined have a significant effect on behavioral and physiological tests, although they rarely explain >10% of the variation. We found that interaction effects are more frequent and larger than the main effects: half of the interactions explained >20% of the variance and in nine cases exceeded 50%. Our results indicate that assays of gene function using mouse models should take into account interactions between gene and environment.

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