Forward, relaxed, and reverse selection for reduced and enhanced sensitivity to ethanol's locomotor stimulant effects in mice

Tamara Phillips, Elaine H. Shen, Carrie S. McKinnon, Sue Burkhart-Kasch, Christina N. Lessov, Abraham A. Palmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

29 Scopus citations


Background: Rarely have trait markers for alcoholism risk been identified. However, relative sensitivity to the arousing effects of ethanol and sensitivity to ethanol's sedative effects have been distinguished as potentially valuable behavioral risk factors. Both traits are genetically influenced and have been modeled in mice by measuring sensitivity to ethanol-induced locomotor stimulation and hypnosis. Reverse selection was performed to examine the hypothesis that forward selection for differential sensitivity to ethanol's locomotor stimulant effects resulted in homozygous fixation of selection trait-relevant alleles and to test the hypothesis that common genes influence ethanol's stimulant and sedative effects. Methods: Bidirectional selective breeding was completed for enhanced (FAST mice) and reduced (SLOW mice) sensitivity to ethanol's locomotor stimulant effects. Selection was terminated (relaxed), and the lines were tested to detect genetic drift. Reverse selection for enhanced sensitivity to ethanol-induced stimulation in SLOW mice and reduced sensitivity in FAST mice was performed for 16 generations. Forward and reverse selected lines were tested for sensitivity to ethanol's sedative effects by measuring duration of ethanol-induced loss of righting reflex. Results: Differential sensitivity to the sedative effects of ethanol emerged with selection for differential ethanol stimulation, indicating a common genetic influence on these traits. SLOW mice developed greater sensitivity to ethanol's sedative effects relative to FAST mice. Reverse selection, never before reported for a pharmacogenetic trait, was effective in eliminating most of the difference in stimulant sensitivity between the FAST and SLOW lines and also eliminated the difference in loss of righting reflex duration. Conclusions: Residual heterozygosity persisted at trait-relevant loci even at the selection plateau, possibly due to heterosis, natural selection favoring heterozygosity, or epistatic phenomena involving differences in the sets of genes regulating the high- versus low-sensitivity traits. They also suggest that some common genes influence sensitivity to ethanol's locomotor stimulant and sedative effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)593-602
Number of pages10
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes



  • Ethanol Sedation
  • Ethanol Stimulation
  • Heterosis
  • Reverse Selection
  • Selective Breeding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology

Cite this