The identification of genetic variants responsible for behavioral variation is an enduring goal in biology, with wide-scale ramifications, ranging from medical research to evolutionary theory on personality syndromes. Here, we use for the first time a large-scale genetical genomics analysis in the brains of chickens to identify genes affecting anxiety as measured by an open field test. We combine quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis in 572 individuals and expression QTL (eQTL) analysis in 129 individuals from an advanced intercross between domestic chickens and Red Junglefowl. We identify 10 putative quantitative trait genes affecting anxiety behavior. These genes were tested for an association in the mouse Heterogeneous Stock anxiety (open field) data set and human GWAS data sets for bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia. Although comparisons between species are complex, associations were observed for four of the candidate genes in mice and three of the candidate genes in humans. Using a multimodel approach we have therefore identified a number of putative quantitative trait genes affecting anxiety behavior, principally in chickens but also with some potentially translational effects as well. This study demonstrates that chickens are an excellent model organism for the genetic dissection of behavior.
Communicating editor: N. R. Wray
Supporting information is available online at www.genetics.org/lookup/suppl/doi:10.1534/genetics.115.179010/-/DC1.
- Received June 4, 2015.
- Accepted October 17, 2015.
- Copyright © 2016 by the Genetics Society of America