American Physiological Society, Physiological Genomics, 13(45), p. 528-538, 2013
The spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR) has been widely used as a model for studies of hypertension and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The inbred Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) rat, derived from the same ancestral outbred Wistar rat as the SHR, are normotensive and have been used as the closest genetic control for the SHR, although the WKY has also been used as a model for depression. Notably, however, substantial behavioral and genetic differences among the WKY substrains, usually from the different vendors and breeders, have been observed. These differences have often been overlooked in prior studies, leading to inconsistent and even contradictory findings. The complicated breeding history of the SHR and WKY rats and the lack of a comprehensive understanding of the genetic background of different commercial substrains make the selection of control rats a daunting task, even for researchers who are mindful of their genetic heterogeneity. In this study, we examined the genetic relationship of 16 commonly used WKY and SHR rat substrains using genome-wide SNP genotyping data. Our results confirmed a large genetic divergence and complicated relationships among the SHR and WKY substrains. This understanding, although incomplete without the genome sequence, provides useful guidance in selecting substrains and helps to interpret previous reports when the source of the animals was known. Moreover, we found two closely related, yet distinct WKY substrains that may provide novel opportunities in modeling psychiatric disorders.