Within-strain variation in behavior differs consistently between common inbred strains of mice.

M. Loos, B. Koopmans, E. Aarts, S. van der Sluis, A.B. Smit, M. Verhage

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Genetic and environmental factors interact throughout life and give rise to individual differences, i.e., individuality. The diversifying effect of environmental factors is counteracted by genetic mechanisms to yield persistence of specific features (robustness). Here, we compared robustness between cohorts of isogenic mice of eight different commonly used strains by analyzing to what extent environmental variation contributed to individuality in each of the eight genotypes, using a previously published dataset. Behavior was assessed in the home-cage, providing control over environmental factors, to reveal within-strain variability in numerous spontaneous behaviors. Indeed, despite standardization and in line with previous studies, substantial variability among mice of the same inbred strain was observed. Strikingly, across a multidimensional set of 115 behavioral parameters, several strains consistently ranked high in within-strain variability (DBA/2J, 129S1/Sv A/J and NOD/LtJ), whereas other strains ranked low (C57BL/6J and BALB/c). Strain rankings of within-strain variability in behavior were confirmed in an independent, previously published behavioral dataset using conventional behavioral tests administered to different mice from the same breeding colonies. Together, these show that genetically inbred mouse strains consistently differ in phenotypic robustness against environmental variation, suggesting that genetic factors contribute to variation in robustness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)348-354
JournalMammalian Genome
Issue number7-8
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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