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Successful sexual reproduction involves complex, genetically encoded interplay between animal physiology and behavior. The rat provides a highly fecund mammalian model for studying how the brain impacts reproduction. Here, we report a forward genetics screen in rats to identify genes that affect reproduction. A panel of 18 distinct rat strains harboring Sleeping Beauty gene trap mutations were analyzed for the ability to reproduce. As expected, our mutant screen identified genes where reproductive failure was connected to gametogenesis ( Btrc, Pan3, Spaca6, Ube2k ) and embryogenesis ( Alk3, Exoc6b, Slc1a3, Tmx4, Zmynd8 ). In addition, we identified Ata13 (longevity) and Pclo (neuronal disorders), previously not associated with an inability to conceive. Neurologically, Pclo is known to regulate the size of presynaptic vesicle pools. Here, dominant traits in Pclo mutant rats caused epileptiform activity and affected genes supporting GABAergic synaptic transmission ( Gabra6 , Gabrg3 ). Recessive traits in Pclo mutant rats transmitted altered reproductive behavior, as homozygous Pclo mutant rats produced gametes but neither sex would mate with wildtype rats. Pclo mutant rat behavior was linked to endophenotypes signifying compromised brain-gonad crosstalk via disturbed GnRH signaling and allelic markers for major depressive disorder in humans ( Grm5, Htr2a, Sorcs3, Negr1, Drd2 ). Thus, by rat genetics, we identified Pclo as a candidate presynaptic factor required for reproduction. Author Summary Piccolo gene mutations have previously been identified in human cohorts diagnosed with behavioral syndromes that impact one’s emotions, including depression and bipolar disorder. Although studies in human populations implicate changes to Piccolo’s DNA sequence to enhanced susceptibility for behavioral disorders, studies in mouse models have yet to link Piccolo mutations to altered behavior. Here, by a novel genetics approach, we report Piccolo mutation-dependent effects on reproductive behavior in rats, a finding that may turn out to be relevant to the behavioral effects that are associated with human Piccolo gene mutations. Thus, research aimed at understanding how Piccolo functions to regulate reproduction in rats could prove pivotal in our ability to understand neurological mechanisms that influence human emotions.

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