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Behav Brain Res. 2001 Nov 1;125(1-2):167-81.

Aggressive behavioral phenotypes in mice.

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Department of Psychology, Bacon Hall, Tufts University, 530 Boston Avenue, Medford, MA 02155, USA.


Aggressive behavior in male and female mice occurs in conflicts with intruding rivals, most often for the purpose of suppressing the reproductive success of the opponent. The behavioral repertoire of fighting is composed of intricately sequenced bursts of species-typical elements, with the resident displaying offensive and the intruder defensive acts and postures. The probability of occurrence as well as the frequency, duration, temporal and sequential patterns of aggressive behavior can be quantified with ethological methods. Classic selection and strain comparisons show the heritability of aggressive behavior, and point to the influence of several genes, including some of them on the Y chromosome. However, genetic effects on aggressive behavior critically depend upon the background strain, maternal environment and the intruder. These factors are equally important in determining changes in aggressive behavior in mice with a specific gene deletion. While changes in aggression characterize mutant mice involving a variety of genes, no pattern has emerged that links particular gene products (i.e. enzyme, peptide, receptor) to either an increase or a decrease in aggressive behavior, but rather emphasizes polygenic influences. A potentially common mechanism may be some components of the serotonin system, since alterations in 5-HT neurotransmission have been found in several of the KO mice that display unusual aggressive behavior.

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