QTL and systems genetics analysis of mouse grooming and behavioral responses to novelty in an open field.

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Genes Brain Behav 2017 Nov; 16(8):790-799








The open field is a classic test used to assess exploratory behavior, anxiety and locomotor activity in rodents. Here, we mapped quantitative trait loci (QTLs) underlying behaviors displayed in an open field, using a panel of 53 BXD recombinant inbred mouse strains with deep replication (10 per strain and sex). The use of these strains permits the integration and comparison of data obtained in different laboratories, and also offers the possibility to study trait covariance by exploiting powerful bioinformatics tools and resources. We quantified behavioral traits during 20-min test sessions including (1) percent time spent and distance traveled near the wall (thigmotaxis), (2) leaning against the wall, (3) rearing, (4) jumping, (5) grooming duration, (6) grooming frequency, (7) locomotion and (8) defecation. All traits exhibit moderate heritability making them amenable to genetic analysis. We identified a significant QTL on chromosome M.m. 4 at approximately 104 Mb that modulates grooming duration in both males and females (likelihood ratio statistic values of approximately 18, explaining 25% and 14% of the variance, respectively) and a suggestive QTL modulating locomotion that maps to the same locus. Bioinformatic analysis indicates Disabled 1 (Dab1, a key protein in the reelin signaling pathway) as a particularly strong candidate gene modulating these behaviors. We also found 2 highly suggestive QTLs for a sex by strain interaction for grooming duration on chromosomes 13 and 17. In addition, we identified a pairwise epistatic interaction between loci on chromosomes 12 at 36-37 Mb and 14 at 34-36 Mb that influences rearing frequency in males. Genes Brain Behav 2017 Nov; 16(8):790-799.

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