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Behav Brain Res. 2001 Nov 1;125(1-2):249-59.

Repeated exposure to rats has persistent genotype-dependent effects on learning and locomotor activity of apolipoprotein E knockout and C57Bl/6 mice.

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Division of Medical Pharmacology, Leiden/Amsterdam Center for Drug Research, University of Leiden, P.O. Box 9503, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands.


Recently we have shown that an experimentally controlled encounter of mice with rats ("rat stress") some time before actual behavioural testing either abolished or induced behavioural deficits in the Morris water maze, depending on the genotype of the mice: apolipoprotein E knockout mice (apoE0/0) and wild type mice. Here we report that previous rat stress: (i) facilitated learning of a circular hole board task in apoE0/0 mice and impaired learning in wild type mice, thereby abolishing genotype-dependent differences; (ii) although both genotypes preferred the dark compartment when tested in a light/dark-preference task 3 months after rat stress, locomotor activity was reduced in apoE0/0 and increased in wild type mice, thus genotype differences were amplified; (iii) both genotypes responded with a differential regulation of bodyweight during exposure to rats, which persisted for 3 months: apoE0/0 mice decreased while wild type mice increased their body weight; (iv) the high emotional reactivity (defecation boli) measured during behavioural tasks was not affected in apoE0/0 mice, whereas a decrease was observed in wild type mice. Thus, pre-experimental confrontation of mice with rats shifts behaviour and physiological responses and eliminates some of the genotype-dependent differences.

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