The purpose of the present study was to characterize the C57BL/6J, A/J, and AXB/BXA Recombinant Inbred (RI) strains of mice for voluntary alcohol consumption. Quantitative Trait Locus (QTL) analysis was used to provide provisional location of QTLs for alcohol consumption. The inbred strains were screened for levels of alcohol intake (calculated as alcohol preference and absolute alcohol consumption) by receiving 4 days of forced exposure to a 10% (wt/vol) solution of alcohol, followed by 3 weeks of free choice between water and 10% alcohol. A wide and continuous distribution of values for alcohol consumption and preference was obtained in the AXB/BXA RI strains, confirming polygenic influences on alcohol-related behaviors. Significant gender differences were found for both alcohol preference [F28,651 = 2.12, p < 0.001] and absolute alcohol consumption [F28,647 = 2.57, p < 0.001]. In males, putative QTLs were mapped to chromosomes (Chrs) 2, 5, 7, 10, 11, and 16. Multiple regression analysis indicated that approximately 75% of the genetic variance in alcohol preference in males could be accounted for by three of the QTL regions. Several of the putative QTLs appeared to be male-specific (Tyr on Chr 7; D10Mit126 on Chr 10; D11Mit61 on Chr 11). In females, seven putative QTLs were mapped to Chrs 2, 4, 5, 7, 11, 16, and 19. Approximately 90% of the genetic variance in alcohol preference in females could be accounted for by four QTL regions, as determined by multiple regression. The QTL on Chr 11 near D11Mit35 appeared to be female-specific. This site was close to a female-specific QTL (Alcp2) previously mapped in C57BL/6J x DBA/2J backcrosses by Melo and coworkers (Nat Genet 13, 147, 1996). The QTLs mapped for alcohol preference in the present study must be considered suggestive at the present time, since only D2Mit74 met very strict statistical criteria for significance. However, the concordance across several studies for the loci on Chrs 2, 4, 7, 9, and 11 suggest that some common QTLs influencing alcohol preference have been identified. Confirmation of QTLs mapped in the present study is currently being conducted in a new series of recombinant congenic (RC) strains developed from reciprocal backcrosses between the A/J and C57BL/6J progenitors. The concomitant use of both RI and RC strains developed from the same progenitors should provide a powerful means of detecting, confirming, and mapping QTLs for alcohol-related traits.
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