Post-traumatic stress behavioural responses in inbred mouse strains: Can genetic predisposition explain phenotypic vulnerability?

Hagit Cohen, Amir B. Geva, Michael A. Matar, Joseph Zohar, Zeev Kaplan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Clinical studies of twin pairs and families of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) patients raise questions as to possible genetic predisposition to PTSD. Studies using isogenic animal populations exposed to a stress paradigm could elucidate the relative contributions of genotype and environment to endophenotypic expression. The prevalence of individuals displaying severely compromised behavioural responses to predator scent stress (PSS) was assessed in six inbred strains of mice in an animal model of PTSD that classifies individuals into groups according to the degree of their behavioural response. The choice of strains was based on the frequent use of these mice in transgenic research. The prevalence of extreme behavioural response in the elevated plus maze and the acoustic startle response paradigms, performed in sequence, was assessed at baseline and 7 d after PSS exposure between and within strains, and compared to differences in circulating corticosterone levels. Narrow-sense trait heritability was determined by comparing the between-strain variance to the total variance. Although strain-specific differences in anxiety-like behaviours were demonstrated, the results revealed a significant degree of individual variability in response patterns within each of the inbred strains, yielding a baseline heritability factor for anxiety-like behaviours of 30%, but only 10% for response to stress exposure. Baseline anxiety-like behaviours were found not to be predictive of post-exposure behavioural responses. The response of the individual to stress is multifactorial and environmental factors play a predominant role in characterizing the individual response to stress exposure, although there are significant genetic underpinnings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-349
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 May 2008


  • Animal model
  • Corticosterone
  • Environmental factor
  • Extreme behavioural response
  • Genetic factor
  • Heritability
  • Inbred strains
  • Minimal behavioural response
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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