Sex and strain influence attribution of incentive salience to reward cues in mice.

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Behav Brain Res 2015; 292:305-315.



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DBI-1262049, GM76468, DA37927


The propensity to attribute incentive salience to reward cues, measured by Pavlovian sign-tracking, is strongly associated with addiction-related traits including cocaine self-administration, impulsivity, novelty reactivity, and novelty preference. Despite its critical role in addiction, the genetic underpinnings of incentive salience attribution and its relationship to drug addiction are unknown. Mouse genetics can be a powerful means to discover genetic mechanisms underlying this relationship. However, feasibility of genetic dissection of sign-tracking in mice is unknown as only a single study limited to male C57BL/6J mice has rigorously examined this behavior, and limited sign-tracking was observed. Highly diverse mouse populations such as the Collaborative Cross (CC) and Diversity Outbred population (DO) possess a greater range of behavioral and genetic variation than conventional laboratory strains. In the present study, we evaluated sign-tracking and the related phenotype goal-tracking in mice of both sexes from five inbred CC and DO founder strains. Male CAST/EiJ mice exhibited robust sign-tracking; male NOD, male C57BL/6J, and female A/J mice also exhibited significant sign-tracking. Male and female mice from all strains exhibited significant goal-tracking, and significant strain and sex differences were observed. Sign-tracking in males was genetically correlated with exploration of a novel environment, and heritability of sign-tracking and goal-tracking ranged from .32 to .41. These data highlight the importance of considering genetic diversity when evaluating the occurrence of specific behavioral traits in the laboratory mouse and demonstrate that the CC and DO mouse populations can be used to discover mechanisms underlying genetic relationships among sign-tracking and addiction-related behaviors. Behav Brain Res 2015; 292:305-315.