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Genetic background influences the effect of thirdhand smoke exposure on anxiety and memory in Collaborative Cross mice


Growing evidence indicates that thirdhand smoke (THS) exposure induces many adverse health effects. However, it is unclear how THS exposure affects behavior and how host genetic background modulates phenotypic changes. Here we used the Collaborative Cross (CC) mouse population-based model to assess behavioral alterations immediately after THS exposure from 4 to 9 weeks of age. We first measured anxiety-like behavior in six strains using light/dark box combined with a custom multivariate mouse tracking system. We developed an anxiety risk scoring system based on anxiety-related traits and then evaluated the THS impact on them. THS exposure significantly decreased anxiety risk in CC019 (P = 0.002) and CC051 (P = 0.009), but increased anxiety risk in CC036 (P < 0.001), while the other three strains did not show significant changes in anxiety-related traits. Such differences were driven by female mice for the six measures of anxiety-like behavior. Memory potential was measured in the same cohort of mice using the passive avoidance assay. Both THS-exposed male and female CC019 mice displayed significant memory loss compared to controls while no significant changes were found in the other five strains. This study provides strong evidence that THS exposure leads to strain-dependent changes in anxiety-like behavior and memory, suggesting that host genetic variations play a critical role in individual susceptibility to THS-induced effects.

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