Optimising experimental design for high-throughput phenotyping in mice: a case study

Mamm Genome. 2010 Oct;21(9-10):467-76. doi: 10.1007/s00335-010-9279-1. Epub 2010 Aug 27.


To further the functional annotation of the mammalian genome, the Sanger Mouse Genetics Programme aims to generate and characterise knockout mice in a high-throughput manner. Annually, approximately 200 lines of knockout mice will be characterised using a standardised battery of phenotyping tests covering key disease indications ranging from obesity to sensory acuity. From these findings secondary centres will select putative mutants of interest for more in-depth, confirmatory experiments. Optimising experimental design and data analysis is essential to maximise output using the resources with greatest efficiency, thereby attaining our biological objective of understanding the role of genes in normal development and disease. This study uses the example of the noninvasive blood pressure test to demonstrate how statistical investigation is important for generating meaningful, reliable results and assessing the design for the defined research objectives. The analysis adjusts for the multiple-testing problem by applying the false discovery rate, which controls the number of false calls within those highlighted as significant. A variance analysis finds that the variation between mice dominates this assay. These variance measures were used to examine the interplay between days, readings, and number of mice on power, the ability to detect change. If an experiment is underpowered, we cannot conclude whether failure to detect a biological difference arises from low power or lack of a distinct phenotype, hence the mice are subjected to testing without gain. Consequently, in confirmatory studies, a power analysis along with the 3Rs can provide justification to increase the number of mice used.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Blood Pressure Determination / methods*
  • Blood Pressure*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • False Negative Reactions
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Heart Rate*
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays / methods*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Phenotype
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Research Design*