• Amygdala;
  • BALB/cAnN;
  • C57BL/6N;
  • conditioned fear;
  • early life environment;
  • GluR1 trafficking;
  • inbred mice;
  • LTD

Environmental factors may unleash genetically determined susceptibility to psychopathology. Great effort has been spent in identifying both the genetic basis and environmental sources of exaggerated fear in animal models of anxiety disorders. Here, we show that the origin of inbred mice, probably via subtle differences in breeding and rearing conditions, may have large consequences specifically on acquisition and retention of fear memories, while leaving anxiety-related behaviours unaffected. These effects could be seen in BALB/cAnN (BALB), but not in C57BL/6N (C57BL/6) mice, thus suggesting their dependency on the genetic background. Increased susceptibility for developing exaggerated fear responses was accompanied by decreased long-term depression and increased surface trafficking of the AMPA receptor GluR1 subunit at the level of the basolateral amygdala complex. Together, these data raise a novel caveat in the debate about the origins of variation in behavioural studies with experimental animals. Considering that there are currently no animal models which explicitly consider conceptual analogy to the specific gene–environment interactions observed in the aetiology of phobias, our study might suggest a novel approach and direction for further preclinical studies focusing on such aspects of phobic-like fears.