Genetic variation in offspring indirectly influences the quality of maternal behaviour in mice

Elife. 2015 Dec 23:4:e11814. doi: 10.7554/eLife.11814.


Conflict over parental investment between parent and offspring is predicted to lead to selection on genes expressed in offspring for traits influencing maternal investment, and on parentally expressed genes affecting offspring behaviour. However, the specific genetic variants that indirectly modify maternal or offspring behaviour remain largely unknown. Using a cross-fostered population of mice, we map maternal behaviour in genetically uniform mothers as a function of genetic variation in offspring and identify loci on offspring chromosomes 5 and 7 that modify maternal behaviour. Conversely, we found that genetic variation among mothers influences offspring development, independent of offspring genotype. Offspring solicitation and maternal behaviour show signs of coadaptation as they are negatively correlated between mothers and their biological offspring, which may be linked to costs of increased solicitation on growth found in our study. Overall, our results show levels of parental provisioning and offspring solicitation are unique to specific genotypes.

Keywords: BXD; coadaptation; evolutionary biology; genomics; indirect genetic effects; maternal care; maternal investment; mouse; offspring solicitation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Maternal Behavior*
  • Mice

Grants and funding

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.