Connectome genetics seeks to uncover how genetic factors shape brain functional connectivity; however, the causal impact of a single gene's activity on whole-brain networks remains unknown. We tested whether the sole targeted deletion of the mu opioid receptor gene (Oprm1) alters the brain connectome in living mice. Hypothesis-free analysis of combined resting-state fMRI diffusion tractography showed pronounced modifications of functional connectivity with only minor changes in structural pathways. Fine-grained resting-state fMRI mapping, graph theory, and intergroup comparison revealed Oprm1-specific hubs and captured a unique Oprm1 gene-to-network signature. Strongest perturbations occurred in connectional patterns of pain/aversion-related nodes, including the mu receptor-enriched habenula node. Our data demonstrate that the main receptor for morphine predominantly shapes the so-called reward/aversion circuitry, with major influence on negative affect centers.
Keywords: diffusion tensor imaging; mouse brain connectivity; mu opioid receptor; resting-state functional MRI; reward/aversion network.