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Most mouse cardiomyocytes (CMs) become multinucleated shortly after birth via endoreplication and interrupted mitosis, which persists through adulthood. The very closely related inbred mouse strains BALB/cJ and BALB/cByJ differ substantially (6.6% vs. 14.3%) in adult mononuclear CM level. This difference is the likely outcome of a single X-linked polymorphic gene that functions in a CM-nonautonomous manner, and for which the BALB/cByJ allele is recessive to that of BALB/cJ. From whole exome sequence we identified two new X-linked protein coding variants that arose de novo in BALB/cByJ, in the genes Gdi1 (R276C) and Irs4 (L683F), but show that neither affects mononuclear CM level individually. No BALB/cJ-specific X-linked protein coding variants were found, implicating instead a variant that influences gene expression rather than encoded protein function. A substantially higher percentage of mononuclear CMs in BALB/cByJ are tetraploid (66.7% vs. 37.6% in BALB/cJ), such that the overall level of mononuclear diploid CMs between the two strains is similar. The difference in nuclear ploidy is the likely result of an autosomal polymorphism, for which the BALB/cByJ allele is recessive to that of BALB/cJ. The X-linked and autosomal genes independently influence mitosis such that their phenotypic consequences can be combined or segregated by appropriate breeding, implying distinct functions in karyokinesis and cytokinesis.


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