Inbred mouse strains and genetic stability: A review

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Inbred mice were essential animal models for scientific research during the 20th century and will contribute decisive results in the current and next centuries. Far from becoming an obsolete research tool, the generation of new inbred strains is continuing and such strains are being used in many research fields. However, their genetic properties have been overlooked for decades, although recent research has revealed new insights into their genetic fragility and relative instability. Contrary to what we usually assume, inbred mice are far from being completely isogenic and both single-gene major mutations and polygenic mutational variability are continuously uploading into inbred populations as new sources of genetic polymorphisms. Note that several inbred strains from new major mutations are released every year, whereas small mutations can accumulate up to accounting for a significant percentage of the phenotypic variance (e.g. 4.5% in a recent study on C57BL/6J mice). Moreover, this genetic heterogeneity can be maintained for several generations by heterozygote selection and, if fixed instead of dropping off, genetic drift must be anticipated. The contribution of accidental genetic contamination in inbred strains must also be considered, although its incidence in current breeding stocks should be minimal, or even negligible. This review revisits several relevant topics for current inbred strains, discussing the latest cutting-edge results within the context of the genetic homogeneity and stability of laboratory mice. Inbred mice can no longer be considered as completely isogenic, but provide a remarkably homogeneous animal model with an inevitable moderate-to-low degree of genetic variability. Despite a certain degree of genetic heterogeneity becoming inescapable, inbred mice still provide very useful animal models with evident advantages when compared with outbred, that is, highly variable, populations. Copyright © 2010 The Animal Consortium.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011


  • heterozygote selection
  • inbred strain
  • isogenicity
  • mouse
  • mutation


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