The Inbred Mouse in Pigmentation Research:

Significance of a Congenic Developmental System


Address reprint requests to Dr M. Lynn Lamoreux, Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843, USA. E-mail:


Pigment mutations in inbred mice have been important to many new scientific developments over the past century. Inbred mice are essentially genetically alike because of 10–20 generations or more of sibling mating or the equivalent. Mice of the same inbred strain that differ at only one locus can be used to evaluate the phenotypic effects of that one locus without complication of variation at other loci. Similarly, genic interactions among the functions of two or more loci are evaluated by comparing them in all combinations against a uniform genetic background. The next logical step in describing the pigment system will occur when all pigment cell biologists who use mice (cells, tissues, DNA, RNA) make certain that their mice are congenic with C57BL/6J. As a result, the work of all investigators will be genetically comparable. Their work will also be comparable to those investigating other organ systems, because NIH has chosen C57BL/6J as one of its two standard strains. As a result of this standardization, interactions among the different gene loci that function in the pigment system will become more readily evident and the community of pigment cell biologists using congenic mice will be able to analyze the functional interplay of loci that regulate the entire pigment system in the same way that earlier researchers analyzed one mutant allele, or the interactions of two mutant loci.