Most familial behavioral phenotypes result from the complex interaction of multiple genes. Studies of such phenotypes involving human subjects are often inconclusive owing to complexity of causation and experimental limitations. Studies of animal models argue for the use of established genetic strains as a powerful tool for genetic dissection of behavioral disorders and have led to the identification of rare genes and genetic mechanisms implicated in such phenotypes. We have used microarrays to study global gene expression in adult brains of four genetic strains of mice (C57BL/6J, DBA/2J, A/J, and BALB/c). Our results demonstrate that different strains show expression differences for a number of genes in the brain, and that closely related strains have similar patterns of gene expression as compared with distantly related strains. In addition, among the 24 000 genes and ESTs on the microarray, 77 showed at least a 1.5-fold increase in the brains of C57BL/6J mice as compared with those of DBA/2J mice. These genes fall into such functional categories as gene regulation, metabolism, cell signaling, neurotransmitter transport, and DNA/RNA binding. The importance of these findings as a novel genetic resource and their use and application in the genetic analysis of complex behavioral phenotypes, susceptibilities, and responses to drugs and chemicals are discussed.