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Front Genet. 2012 May 28;3:90. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2012.00090. eCollection 2012.

Genetic architecture of nest building in mice LG/J × SM/J.

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Department of Genetics and Evolution, Center of Health and Biological Sciences, Federal University of Sao Carlos Sao Carlos, Brazil.


Maternal care is critical to offspring growth and survival, which is greatly improved by building an effective nest. Some suggest that genetic variation and underlying genetic effects differ between fitness-related traits and other phenotypes. We investigated the genetic architecture of a fitness-related trait, nest building, in F(2) female mice intercrossed from inbred strains SM/J and LG/J using a QTL analysis for six related nest phenotypes (Presence and Structure pre- and postpartum, prepartum Material Used and postpartum Temperature). We found 15 direct-effect QTLs explaining from 4 to 13% of the phenotypic variation in nest building, mostly with non-additive effect. Epistatic analyses revealed 71 significant epistatic interactions which together explain from 28.4 to 75.5% of the variation, indicating an important role for epistasis in the adaptive process of nest building behavior in mice. Our results suggest a genetic architecture with small direct effects and a larger number of epistatic interactions as expected for fitness-related phenotypes.


QTL; epistasis; fitness; maternal behavior; mice

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