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J Am Assoc Lab Anim Sci. 2012 Jul;51(4):401-6.

Variation in airway responsiveness of male C57BL/6 mice from 5 vendors.

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Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.


Mice are now the most commonly used animal model for the study of asthma. The mouse asthma model has many characteristics of the human pathology, including allergic sensitization and airway hyperresponsiveness. Inbred strains are commonly used to avoid variations due to genetic background, but variations due to rearing environment are not as well recognized. After a change in mouse vendors and a switch from C57BL/6J mice to C57BL/6N mice, we noted significant differences in airway responsiveness between the substrains. To further investigate the effect of vendor, we tested C57BL/6N mice from 3 other vendors and found significant differences between several of the substrains. To test whether this difference was due to genetic drift or rearing environment, we purchased new groups of mice from all 5 vendors, bred them in separate vendor-specific groups under uniform environmental conditions, and tested male first generation (F1) offspring at 8 to 10 wk of age. These F1 mice showed no significant differences in airway responsiveness, indicating that the rearing environment rather than genetic differences was responsible for the initial variation in pulmonary phenotype. The environmental factors that caused the phenotypic variation are unknown. However, differences between vendor in feed components, bedding type, or microbiome could have contributed. Whatever the basis, investigators using mouse models of asthma should be cautious in comparing data from mice obtained from different vendors.

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