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Horm Behav. 2008 Sep;54(4):565-70. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2008.05.016. Epub 2008 Jun 10.

Sex chromosome complement affects social interactions in mice.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, Program in Neuroscience, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA.


Sex differences in behavior can be attributed to differences in steroid hormones. Sex chromosome complement can also influence behavior, independent of gonadal differentiation. The mice used for this work combined a spontaneous mutation of the Sry gene with a transgene for Sry that is incorporated into an autosome thus disassociating gonad differentiation from sex chromosome complement. The resulting genotypes are XX and XY(-) females (ovary-bearing) along with XXSry and XY(-)Sry males (testes-bearing). Here we report results of basic behavioral phenotyping conducted with these mice. Motor coordination, use of olfactory cues to find a food item, general activity, foot shock threshold, and behavior in an elevated plus maze were not affected by gonadal sex or sex chromosome complement. In a one-way active avoidance learning task females were faster to escape an electric shock than males. In addition, sex chromosome complement differences were noted during social interactions with submissive intruders. Female XY(-) mice were faster to follow an intruder than XX female mice. All XY(-) mice spent more time sniffing and grooming the intruder than the XX mice, with XY(-) females spending the most amount of time in this activity. Finally, XX females were faster to display an asocial behavior, digging, and engaged in more digging than XXSry male mice. All of these behaviors were tested in gonadectomized adults, thus, differences in circulating levels of gonadal steroids cannot account for these effects. Taken together, these data show that sex chromosome complement affects social interaction style in mice.

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