Environmental variables differentially affect ethanol-stimulated activity in selectively bred mouse lines

John C. Crabbe, Catherine M. Deutsch, Brenda R. Tam, Emmett R. Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Low doses of ethanol (EtOH) stimulate activity in an open field in many strains of laboratory mice. We are selectively breeding two lines of mice to exhibit a large (FAST) response on this test, and two other lines to exhibit a small (SLOW) response (Crabbe et al. 1987). The lines initially diverged in response to EtOH, but despite continued selection pressure, the difference between each pair of FAST and SLOW lines has not increased over generations as much as expected. Our practice has been to test animals on the 1st day after saline injection, and repeat the test after EtOH injection 24 h later. Lister (1987) recently demonstrated that the order in which an animal was exposed to EtOH and saline influenced the magnitude of the response to EtOH, with animals tested initially after EtOH having greater stimulation. Middaugh et al. (1987) recently demonstrated that the magnitude of EtOH stimulation was greater under conditions of relatively bright light than under dim light. Using non-selected Swiss mice, the current experiments essentially confirmed Lister's findings. Using FAST and SLOW mice, the predictions of both groups were tested. Both hypotheses were confirmed. Additionally, these experiments demonstrated that the magnitude of the difference between FAST and SLOW mice was greater under bright light than under dim light. The line difference was also greater when tested in the EtOH-Saline order. In experiments with Swiss mice, the possible role of peritoneal irritation in the EtOH effect was eliminated, and the optimal dose and time for demonstrating the effect was determined. These experiments confirm the importance of lighting condition, order of testing, dose, and route of administration in eliciting EtOH-stimulated open field activity in mice. They demonstrate a genotype-environment interaction, since the magnitude of difference between genetically selected lines varied as a function of the testing parameters chosen. Finally, they indicate that the differences between FAST and SLOW lines in sensitivity to EtOH generalizes to several environmental conditions. We interpret this to mean that the various EtOH-induced activation traits represented by these different environmental and testing conditions are genetically correlated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-108
Number of pages6
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1988
Externally publishedYes


  • Ethanol-stimulated activity
  • Genetics
  • Mouse
  • Selective breeding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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