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Keywords:

  • Collaborative Cross;
  • complex traits;
  • fine-mapping;
  • heterogeneous stock;
  • mouse populations;
  • QTL mapping

Historically our ability to identify genetic variants underlying complex behavioral traits in mice has been limited by low mapping resolution of conventional mouse crosses. The newly developed Diversity Outbred (DO) population promises to deliver improved resolution that will circumvent costly fine-mapping studies. The DO is derived from the same founder strains as the Collaborative Cross (CC), including three wild-derived strains. Thus the DO provides more allelic diversity and greater potential for discovery compared to crosses involving standard mouse strains. We have characterized 283 male and female DO mice using open-field, light–dark box, tail-suspension and visual-cliff avoidance tests to generate 38 behavioral measures. We identified several quantitative trait loci (QTL) for these traits with support intervals ranging from 1 to 3 Mb in size. These intervals contain relatively few genes (ranging from 5 to 96). For a majority of QTL, using the founder allelic effects together with whole genome sequence data, we could further narrow the positional candidates. Several QTL replicate previously published loci. Novel loci were also identified for anxiety- and activity-related traits. Half of the QTLs are associated with wild-derived alleles, confirming the value to behavioral genetics of added genetic diversity in the DO. In the presence of wild-alleles we sometimes observe behaviors that are qualitatively different from the expected response. Our results demonstrate that high-precision mapping of behavioral traits can be achieved with moderate numbers of DO animals, representing a significant advance in our ability to leverage the mouse as a tool for behavioral genetics.