The question of whether genetic factors contribute to risk for methamphetamine (MA) use and dependence has not been intensively investigated. Compared to human populations, genetic animal models offer the advantages of control over genetic family history and drug exposure. Using selective breeding, we created lines of mice that differ in genetic risk for voluntary MA intake and identified the chromosomal addresses of contributory genes. A quantitative trait locus was identified on chromosome 10 that accounts for more than 50% of the genetic variance in MA intake in the selected mouse lines. In addition, behavioral and physiological screening identified differences corresponding with risk for MA intake that have generated hypotheses that are testable in humans. Heightened sensitivity to aversive and certain physiological effects of MA, such as MA-induced reduction in body temperature, are hallmarks of mice bred for low MA intake. Furthermore, unlike MA-avoiding mice, MA-preferring mice are sensitive to rewarding and reinforcing MA effects, and to MA-induced increases in brain extracellular dopamine levels. Gene expression analyses implicate the importance of a network enriched in transcription factor genes, some of which regulate the mu opioid receptor gene, Oprm1, in risk for MA use. Neuroimmune factors appear to play a role in differential response to MA between the mice bred for high and low intake. In addition, chromosome 10 candidate gene studies provide strong support for a trace amine-associated receptor 1 gene, Taar1, polymorphism in risk for MA intake. MA is a trace amine-associated receptor 1 (TAAR1) agonist, and a non-functional Taar1 allele segregates with high MA consumption. Thus, reduced TAAR1 function has the potential to increase risk for MA use. Overall, existing findings support the MA drinking lines as a powerful model for identifying genetic factors involved in determining risk for harmful MA use. Future directions include the development of a binge model of MA intake, examining the effect of withdrawal from chronic MA on MA intake, and studying potential Taar1 gene × gene and gene × environment interactions. These and other studies are intended to improve our genetic model with regard to its translational value to human addiction.
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