Functional interrogation of a depression-related serotonergic SNP, rs6295, using a humanized mouse model Journal Article uri icon



  • AbstractThe serotonin 1A receptor (5-HT1A) system has been extensively implicated in modulating mood and behavior. Notably, 5-HT1A levels in humans display remarkable variation and differences in receptor levels have been linked with a variety of psychiatric disorders. Further, manipulation of receptor levels in mice suggests that changes in receptor levels that model existing human variation are sufficient to drive behavioral alterations. As a result, genetic mechanisms that modulate human 5-HT1A levels may be important for explaining individual differences in mood and behavior, representing a potential source of psychiatric disease risk. One common genetic variant implicated in differential 5-HT1A levels is the G/C single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), rs6295, located upstream of the human 5-HT1A gene. This SNP differentially binds the transcription factor, NUDR/Deaf1, leading to cell-type specific effects on transcription in vitro. To investigate the direct effects of this SNP in the heterogeneous cellular context of the brain, we generated humanized transgenic mice using a design that maximized the local transcriptional landscape of the human HTR1A gene while also controlling for effects of genomic insertion location. Expression of the human transgene in a 5-HT1A null mouse resulted in line-dependent expression of human 5-HT1A. The effect of rs6295 on protein levels and behavior similarly differed across lines, suggesting that the penetrance of rs6295 may depend upon background genetic factors. Together, this work confirms that relatively subtle differences in 5-HT1A levels can contribute to differences in behavior and highlights the challenges of modeling human non-coding genetic variation in mice.

publication date

  • January 1, 2018

Full Author List

  • Cunningham AM; Santos TL; Gutzeit VA; Hamilton H; Hen R; Donaldson ZR

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