Brain gene expression differences related to ethanol preference in the collaborative cross founder strains

Justin Q. Anderson, Priscila Darakjian, Robert Hitzemann, Denesa R. Lockwood, Tamara J. Phillips, Angela R. Ozburn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The collaborative cross (CC) founder strains include five classical inbred laboratory strains [129S1/SvlmJ (S129), A/J (AJ), C57BL/6J (B6), NOD/ShiLtJ (NOD), and NZO/HILtJ (NZO)] and three wild-derived strains [CAST/EiJ (CAST), PWK/PhJ (PWK), and WSB/EiJ (WSB)]. These strains encompass 89% of the genetic diversity available in Mus musculus and ∼10–20 times more genetic diversity than found in Homo sapiens. For more than 60 years the B6 strain has been widely used as a genetic model for high ethanol preference and consumption. However, another of the CC founder strains, PWK, has been identified as a high ethanol preference/high consumption strain. The current study determined how the transcriptomes of the B6 and PWK strains differed from the 6 low preference CC strains across 3 nodes of the brain addiction circuit. RNA-Seq data were collected from the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA), the nucleus accumbens core (NAcc) and the prelimbic cortex (PrL). Differential expression (DE) analysis was performed in each of these brain regions for all 28 possible pairwise comparisons of the CC founder strains. Unique genes for each strain were identified by selecting for genes that differed significantly [false discovery rate (FDR) < 0.05] from all other strains in the same direction. B6 was identified as the most distinct classical inbred laboratory strain, having the highest number of total differently expressed genes (DEGs) and DEGs with high log fold change, and unique genes compared to other CC strains. Less than 50 unique DEGs were identified in common between B6 and PWK within all three brain regions, indicating the strains potentially represent two distinct genetic signatures for risk for high ethanol-preference. 338 DEGs were found to be commonly different between B6, PWK and the average expression of the remaining CC strains within all three regions. The commonly different up-expressed genes were significantly enriched (FDR < 0.001) among genes associated with neuroimmune function. These data compliment findings showing that neuroimmune signaling is key to understanding alcohol use disorder (AUD) and support use of these 8 strains and the highly heterogeneous mouse populations derived from them to identify alcohol-related brain mechanisms and treatment targets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number992727
JournalFrontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
StatePublished - Sep 23 2022


  • central amygdala (CeA)
  • collaborative cross (CC)
  • ethanol
  • genetically unique mouse strains
  • nucleus accumbens (NAc)
  • prelimbic cortex (PrL)
  • transcriptomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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