Rodent self-grooming is an important, evolutionarily conserved behavior, highly sensitive to pharmacological and genetic manipulations. Mice with aberrant grooming phenotypes are currently used to model various human disorders. Therefore, it is critical to understand the biology of grooming behavior, and to assess its translational validity to humans. The present in-silico study used publicly available gene expression and behavioral data obtained from several inbred mouse strains in the open-field, light-dark box, elevated plus- and elevated zero-maze tests. As grooming duration differed between strains, our analysis revealed several candidate genes with significant correlations between gene expression in the brain and grooming duration. The Allen Brain Atlas, STRING, GoMiner and Mouse Genome Informatics databases were used to functionally map and analyze these candidate mouse genes against their human orthologs, assessing the strain ranking of their expression and the regional distribution of expression in the mouse brain. This allowed us to identify an interconnected network of candidate genes (which have expression levels that correlate with grooming behavior), display altered patterns of expression in key brain areas related to grooming, and underlie important functions in the brain. Collectively, our results demonstrate the utility of large-scale, high-throughput data-mining and in-silico modeling for linking genomic and behavioral data, as well as their potential to identify novel neural targets for complex neurobehavioral phenotypes, including grooming.
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