Sex-specific effects on spatial learning and memory, and sex-independent effects on blood pressure of a <3.3 Mbp rat chromosome 2 QTL region in Dahl salt-sensitive rats.
Epidemiological studies have consistently found that hypertension is associated with poor cognitive performance. We hypothesize that a putative causal mechanism underlying this association is due to genetic loci affecting both blood pressure and cognition. Consistent with this notion, we reported several blood pressure (BP) quantitative trait loci (QTLs) that co-localized with navigational performance (Nav)-QTLs influencing spatial learning and memory in Dahl rats. The present study investigates a chromosome 2 region harboring BP-f4 and Nav-8 QTLs. We developed two congenic strains, S.R2A and S.R2B introgressing Dahl R-chromosome 2 segments into Dahl S chromosome 2 region spanning BP-f4 and Nav-8 QTLs. Radiotelemetric blood pressure analysis identified only S.R2A congenic rats with lower systolic blood pressure (females: -26.0 mmHg, P = 0.003; males: -30.9 mmHg, P<1×10(-5)), diastolic blood pressure (females: -21.2 mmHg, P = 0.01; males: -25.7 mmHg, P<1×10(-5)), and mean arterial pressure (females: -23.9 mmHg, P = 0.004; males: -28.0 mmHg, P<1×10(-5)) compared with corresponding Dahl S controls, confirming the presence of BP-f4 QTL on rat chromosome 2. The S.R2B congenic segment did not affect blood pressure. Testing of S.R2A, S.R2B, and Dahl S male rats in the Morris water maze (MWM) task revealed significantly decreased spatial navigation performance in S.R2A male congenic rats when compared with Dahl S male controls (P<0.05). The S.R2B congenic segment did not affect performance of the MWM task in males. The S.R2A female rats did not differ in spatial navigation when compared with Dahl S female controls, indicating that the Nav-8 effect on spatial navigation is male-specific. Our results suggest the existence of a single QTL on chromosome 2 176.6-179.9 Mbp region which affects blood pressure in both males and females and cognition solely in males.