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Center for Human Genetic Research, Massachusetts General Hospital, Simches Research Center, CPZN-6818, 185 Cambridge Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.
Characterizing the patterns of genetic variation in an organism provides fundamental insight into the evolutionary history of the organism and defines the scope and nature of studies that must be designed to correlate genotype to phenotype. Given the pre-eminent role of the inbred mouse in biomedical research, considerable effort has been undertaken in recent years to describe more fully the nature and amount of genetic variation among the numerous strains of mice that are in widest use. Here, we discuss recent studies that have contributed to an emerging understanding of the unique variation patterns found in inbred strains of mice and how they have arisen through a combination of natural evolution and human-directed breeding. These preliminary results have ramifications for genetic research into complex biomedical traits and are the basis for the development of future variation resources.