Comparing phenotypic variation between inbred and outbred mice

An Author Correction to this article was published on 29 July 2020

An Author Correction to this article was published on 21 December 2018

This article has been updated

Inbred mice are preferred over outbred mice because it is assumed that they display less trait variability. We compared coefficients of variation and did not find evidence of greater trait stability in inbred mice. We conclude that contrary to conventional wisdom, outbred mice might be better subjects for most biomedical research.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Coefficients of variation of all available studies in which inbred and outbred mice were directly compared.
Fig. 2: CVs within each inbred strain and the average CV across 1,000 subsamples of the DO population.

Data availability

Data used in this paper are provided as Supplementary Information.

Change history

  • 29 July 2020

    An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.

  • 21 December 2018

    In the version of this Comment originally published, the authors omitted a funding source. Grant 5 P50 DA039841 (to E.J.C.) from the US National Institute on Drug Abuse has been added to the Acknowledgements in the HTML and PDF versions of the paper.


  1. 1.

    Taylor, K., Gordon, N., Langley, G. & Higgins, W. Altern. Lab. Anim. 36, 327–342 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Festing, M. F. W. ILAR J. 55, 399–404 (2014).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Biggers, J. D. & Claringbold, P. J. Nature 174, 596–597 (1954).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Jensen, V. S., Porsgaard, T., Lykkesfeldt, J. & Hvid, H. Am. J. Transl. Res. 8, 3574–3584 (2016).

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Festing, M. F. W. Toxicol. Pathol. 38, 681–690 (2010).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Festing, M. F. W. Neurobiol. Aging 20, 237–244 (1999).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Chia, R., Achilli, F., Festing, M. F. W. & Fisher, E. M. C. Nat. Genet. 37, 1181–1186 (2005).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Murray, S. A. et al. PLoS One 5, e12418 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Tanaka, T. Reprod. Toxicol. 12, 613–617 (1998).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Chalfin, L. et al. Nat. Commun. 5, 4569 (2014).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Fonio, E., Golani, I. & Benjamini, Y. Nat. Methods 9, 1167–1170 (2012).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Dohm, M. R., Richardson, C. S. & Garland, T. Jr. Am. J. Physiol. 267, R1098–R1108 (1994).

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Nevison, C. M., Barnard, C. J. & Hurst, J. L. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 81, 387–398 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Tuttle, A. H. et al. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 114, 5515–5520 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Miller, R. A. et al. Neurobiol. Aging 20, 217–231 (1999).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Prendergast, B. J., Onishi, K. G. & Zucker, I. Neurosci. Biobehav. Rev. 40, 1–5 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Logan, R. W. et al. Genes Brain Behav. 12, 424–437 (2013).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Mogil, J. S. Lab. Anim. (NY) 46, 136–141 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Carter, G. W., Hays, M., Sherman, A. & Galitski, T. PLoS Genet. 8, e1003010 (2012).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Phelan, J. P. & Austad, S. N. J. Gerontol. 49, B1–B11 (1994).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This work was supported by funding from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (FRN154281 to J.S.M.), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (RGPIN-2018-03873 to J.S.M.), the Louise and Alan Edwards Foundation (J.S.M.), and the NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse (5 P50 DA039841 to E.J.C.).

Author information




The study was conceived by J.S.M., designed by A.H.T. and J.S.M., carried out by A.H.T., and analyzed by V.M.P. and E.J.C.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jeffrey S. Mogil.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Integrated supplementary information

Supplementary Figure 1

PRISMA diagram.

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Text and Figures

Supplementary Figure 1 and Supplementary Table 2

Reporting Summary

Supplementary Table 1

Data from papers simultaneously testing inbred and outbred mouse strains.

Supplementary Table 3

DO versus inbred CVs.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Tuttle, A.H., Philip, V.M., Chesler, E.J. et al. Comparing phenotypic variation between inbred and outbred mice. Nat Methods 15, 994–996 (2018).

Download citation

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing