Here, we map a quantitative trait locus (QTL) with a large effect on predisposition to barbiturate (pentobarbital) withdrawal to a 0.44Mb interval of mouse chromosome 1 syntenic with human 1q23.2. We report a detailed analysis of the genes within this interval and show that it contains 15 known and predicted genes, 12 of which demonstrate validated genotype-dependent transcript expression and/or nonsynonymous coding sequence variation that may underlie the influence of the QTL on withdrawal. These candidates are involved in diverse cellular functions including intracellular trafficking, potassium conductance and spatial buffering, and multimolecular complex dynamics, and indicate both established and novel aspects of neurobiological response to sedative-hypnotics. This work represents a substantial advancement toward identification of the gene(s) that underlie the phenotypic effects of the QTL. We identify Kcnj9 as a particularly promising candidate and report the development of a Kcnj9-null mutant model that exhibits significantly less severe withdrawal from pentobarbital as well as other sedative-hypnotics (zolpidem and ethanol) versus wild-type littermates. Reduced expression of Kcnj9, which encodes GIRK3 (Kir3.3), is associated with less severe sedative-hypnotic withdrawal. A multitude of QTLs for a variety of complex traits, including diverse responses to sedative-hypnotics, have been detected on distal chromosome1 in mice, and as many as four QTLs on human chromosome1q have been implicated in human studies of alcohol dependence. Thus, our results will be primary to additional efforts to identify genes involved in a wide variety of behavioral responses to sedative-hypnotics and may directly facilitate progress in human genetics.
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