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Epigenetic sources of behavioral differences in mice


Inbred mouse strains are classically used to search for the genes associated with behavioral traits, including emotionality. To distinguish genetic and environmental contributions to the expression of adult behavior in mice, we investigated the effects of prenatal (embryo transfer) and postnatal (cross-fostering) environments in two strains of inbred mice with profound and reliable differences in behavior1. Here we report that strain-related behavioral differences may result from environmental factors during development rather than genetic differences between the offspring.

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Figure 1: Open-field, elevated-plus maze, water-maze learning and pre-pulse inhibition behavior.


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The authors thank T. Etzel for assistance with animal care, and Cure Autism Now and the National Science Foundation IBN 9876754 for support.

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Correspondence to Thomas R. Insel.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Francis, D., Szegda, K., Campbell, G. et al. Epigenetic sources of behavioral differences in mice. Nat Neurosci 6, 445–446 (2003).

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