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A large QTL for fear and anxiety mapped using an F2 cross can be dissected into multiple smaller QTLs

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Using chromosome substitution strains (CSS), we previously identified a large quantitative trait locus (QTL) for conditioned fear (CF) on mouse chromosome 10. Here, we used an F2 cross between CSS-10 and C57BL/6J (B6) to localize that QTL to distal chromosome 10. That QTL accounted for all the difference between CSS-10 and B6. We then produced congenic strains to fine-map that interval. We identified two congenic strains that captured some or all the QTL. The larger congenic strain (Line 1: 122.387121-129.068 Mb; build 37) appeared to account for all the difference between CSS-10 and B6. The smaller congenic strain (Line 2: 127.277-129.068 Mb) was intermediate between CSS-10 and B6. We used haplotype mapping followed by quantitative polymerase chain reaction to identify one gene that was differentially expressed in both lines relative to B6 (Rnf41) and one that was differentially expressed between only Line 1 and B6 (Shmt2). These cis-eQTLs may cause the behavioral QTLs; however, further studies are required to validate these candidate genes. More generally, our observation that a large QTL mapped using CSS and F2 crosses can be dissected into multiple smaller QTLs shows a weaknesses of two-stage approaches that seek to use coarse mapping to identify large regions followed by fine-mapping. Indeed, additional dissection of these congenic strains might result in further subdivision of these QTL regions. Despite these limitations, we have successfully fine-mapped two QTLs to small regions and identified putative candidate genes, showing that the congenic approach can be effective for fine-mapping QTLs.

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