High-resolution mapping of a novel genetic locus regulating voluntary physical activity in mice

H. S. Yang, K. Shimomura, M. H. Vitaterna, F. W. Turek*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Both human beings and animals exhibit substantial inter-individual variation in voluntary physical activity, and evidence indicates that a significant component of this variation is because of genetic factors. However, little is known of the genetic basis underlying central regulation of voluntary physical activity in mammals. In this study, using an F 2 intercross population and interval-specific congenic strains (ISCS) derived from the C57BL/6J strain and a chromosome 13 substitution strain, C57BL/6J-Chr13A/J/NA/J, we identified a 3.76-Mb interval on chromosome 13 containing 25 genes with a significant impact on daily voluntary wheel running activity in mice. Brain expression and polymorphisms between the C57BL/6J and A/J strains were examined to prioritize candidate genes. As the dopaminergic pathway regulates motor movement and motivational behaviors, we tested its function by examining cocaine-induced locomotor responses in ISCS with different levels of activity. The low-activity ISCS exhibited a significantly higher response to acute cocaine administration than the high-activity ISCS. Expression analysis of key dopamine-related genes (dopamine transporter and D1, D2, D3, D4 and D5 receptors) revealed that expression of D1 receptor was higher in the low-activity ISCS than in the high-activity ISCS in both the dorsal striatum and nucleus accumbens. Pathway analysis implicated Tcfap2a, a gene found within the 3.76-Mb interval, involved in the D1 receptor pathway. Using a luciferase reporter assay, we confirmed that the transcriptional factor, Tcfap2a, regulates the promoter activity of the D1 receptor gene. Thus, Tcfap2a is proposed as a candidate genetic regulator of the level of voluntary physical activity through its influence on a dopaminergic pathway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-124
Number of pages12
JournalGenes, Brain and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2012


  • Chromosome substitution strain
  • Dopaminergic pathway
  • Interval-specific congenic strain
  • QTL mapping
  • Voluntary physical activity
  • Wheel running

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Genetics
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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