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C57BL/6, female, 22 months of age

C57BL/6, often referred to as "C57 black 6", "C57" or "black 6" (standard abbreviation: B6), is a common inbred strain of laboratory mouse.

It is the most widely used "genetic background" for genetically modified mice for use as models of human disease. They are the most widely used and best-selling mouse strain, due to the availability of congenic strains, easy breeding, and robustness.[1]

Appearance and behavior[edit]

C57BL/6 mice have a dark brown, nearly black coat. They are more sensitive to noise and odours and are more likely to bite than the more docile laboratory strains such as BALB/c.[2] They are good breeders.[1]

Group-housed B6 mice display barbering behavior, in which the dominant mouse in a cage selectively removes hair from its subordinate cage mates. Mice that have been barbered have large bald patches on their bodies, commonly around the head, snout, and shoulders, although barbering may appear anywhere on the body. Both hair and vibrissae may be removed. Barbering is more frequently seen in female mice; male mice are more likely to display dominance through fighting.[3]

C57BL/6 has many unusual characteristics that make it useful for some work and inappropriate for other: It is unusually sensitive to pain and to cold, and analgesic medications are less effective in it.[1][4] Unlike most mouse strains, it drinks alcoholic beverages voluntarily. It is more susceptible than average to morphine addiction, atherosclerosis,[citation needed] and age-related hearing loss.[5]


The C57BL/6 mouse was the second-ever mammalian species to have its entire genome published.[1]

The dark coat makes the mouse strain convenient for creating transgenic mice: it is crossed with a light-furred 129 mouse, and the desirable crosses can be easily identified by their mixed coat colors.[1]


By far the most popular laboratory rodent, the C57BL/6 mouse accounts for half to five-sixths of all rodents shipped to research laboratories from American suppliers.[1] Its overwhelming popularity is due largely to inertia: it has been widely used and widely studied, and therefore it is used even more.[1]

One study has shown that about four-fifths of mice used in lab studies for pain are males.[1] Using both sexes is believed to increase costs, and using females is believed to produce unreliable results due to natural variations in the estrous cycle for reproduction.[1]

In 2013 C57BL/6 mice were flown into space aboard Bion-M No.1.[6][7] Of the 45 mice sent into orbit (which was designed for their return), 16 survived.[6]


The inbred strain of C57BL mice was created in 1921 by C. C. Little at the Bussey Institute for Research in Applied Biology.[1] The subline "6" was the most popular of the ten sublines of this strain.


C57BL/A Inbr(A) ?+142. Origin. Little to A c1932. Maint. by A.

C57BL/An Little to Andervont 1932. Differs from B6 and B10 at the Ce1 locus.

C57BL/GrFa. Origin: Little to Gruneberg 1932, to Falconer 1947. Most British substrains derived from this stock, though 6 and 10 substrains have been imported more recently. This substrain seems to resemble the 6 rather than the 10 substrain.

C57BL/KaLwN. To N 1965 from Lw at F35.


C57BL/6 Inbr (J) 150. Origin: substrains 6 and 10 were separated prior to 1937. This substrain is now probably the most widely used of all inbred strains. Substrain 6 and 10 differ at the H9, Igh2 and Lv loci. Maint. by J,N, Ola.

C57BL/10 Inbr (J) 158. Origin: see C57BL/6.

C57BL/10ScSn. Inbr (J) ? +136. Little to W.L.Russell to J.P.Scott at F26 as a separate substrain. To Snell at F35-36. Behaviour differs from C57BL/10J.

C57BL/10Cr Carries spontaneous lipopolysaccharide mutation lps which appears to resemble that found in C3H/HeJ.

C57BL/Ola Carries a spontaneous mutation, Wlds, causing a marked slowing of axonal degeneration during Wallerian degeneration.[8][9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Engber, Daniel (17 November 2011). "The Trouble With Black-6: A tiny alcoholic takes over the lab.". Slate.com. 
  2. ^ Connor, A.B. (2006). "Aurora’s Guide to Mouse Colony Management". Cell Migration Gateway. CMC Activity Center. Retrieved 19 December 2013. 
  3. ^ Sarna JR, Dyck RH, Whishaw IQ (February 2000). "The Dalila effect: C57BL6 mice barber whiskers by plucking". Behavioural Brain Research 108 (1): 39–45. doi:10.1016/S0166-4328(99)00137-0. PMID 10680755. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  4. ^ Mogil JS, Wilson SG, Bon K, et al. (March 1999). "Heritability of nociception I: responses of 11 inbred mouse strains on 12 measures of nociception". Pain 80 (1-2): 67–82. doi:10.1016/s0304-3959(98)00197-3. PMID 10204719. 
  5. ^ Willott, James F. (April 2013). "Audition". In Crusio, Wim E.; Sluyter, Frans; Gerlai, Robert T.; Pietropaolo, Susanna. Behavioral Genetics of the Mouse: Genetics of Behavioral Phenotypes. Cambridge Handbooks in Behavioral Genetics. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. pp. 36–44. ISBN 978-1-107-03481-5. 
  6. ^ a b Zak, Anatoly. "Bion (12KSM) satellite". RussianSpaceWeb. Retrieved 19 April 2013. 
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ Tsao, J.W.; Brown M. C.; Carden M. J.; McLean W. G.; Perry V. H. (1994). "Loss of the compound action potential: An electrophysiological, biochemical and morphological study of early events in axonal degeneration in the C57BL/Ola mouse". European Journal of Neuroscience 6: 516–524. doi:10.1111/j.1460-9568.1994.tb00295.x. 
  9. ^ Festing, Michael FW. "Inbred Strains of Mice: C57BL". Retrieved 19 November 2012.