An individual's genetic background affects their emotional behavior and response to stress. Although studies have been conducted to identify genetic predictors for emotional behavior or stress response, it remains unknown how prior stress history alters the interaction between an individual's genome and their emotional behavior. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to identify chromosomal regions that affect emotional behavior and are sensitive to stress exposure. We utilized the BXD behavioral genetics mouse model to identify chromosomal regions that predict fear learning and emotional behavior following exposure to a control or chronic stress environment. 62 BXD recombinant inbred strains and C57BL/6 and DBA/2 parental strains underwent behavioral testing including a classical fear conditioning paradigm and the elevated plus maze. Distinct quantitative trait loci (QTLs) were identified for emotional learning, anxiety and locomotion in control and chronic stress populations. Candidate genes, including those with already known functions in learning and stress were found to reside within the identified QTLs. Our data suggest that chronic stress history reveals novel genetic predictors of emotional behavior.
Keywords: BXD; QTL; anxiety; emotional behavior; fear learning; genetics; stress.