Background matters: the effects of estrogen receptor alpha gene disruption on male sexual behavior are modified by background strain.

Research paper by Emilio E Dominguez-Salazar, Heather L HL Bateman, Emilie F EF Rissman

Indexed on: 07 Oct '04Published on: 07 Oct '04Published in: Hormones and Behavior


One approach to study interactions between behavior and genetics is to use inbred mice with different genetic backgrounds. To examine the effect of background on a specific gene, we conducted a series of experiments with a well-characterized knockout (KO) mouse, the estrogen receptor alpha KO (ERalphaKO). The ERalphaKO mouse has so far been examined in one inbred line, C57BL/6J. Here, we examined the behavior of ERalphaKO mice within three different backgrounds mixed with C57BL/6J; DBA/2J, BALB/c, and A/J. First, we assessed masculine sexual behavior in both intact male and testosterone-treated female offspring. More ERalphaKO males in the DBA/2J (5/12) and BALB/c (5/13) backcrosses displayed intromissions and many ejaculated as compared with males in a C57BL/6J and A/J mixed background. Many fewer ERalphaKO females than males displayed masculine sexual behavior in any of the three hybrid crosses. We assessed fertility in males from the C57BL/6J by DBA/2J cross and found that one of 12 ERalphaKO males sired a litter. Several other characteristics of sexual behavior and physiology were unaffected by genetic background in ERalphaKO mice. Our data suggest that genetic background has dramatic effects on male sexual behavior and its dependence on the ERalpha gene.