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Behav Brain Res. 2007 Sep 4;182(2):344-8. Epub 2007 Apr 1.

Short-term and long-term effects of postnatal exposure to an adult male in C57BL/6J mice.

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Section on Behavioral Science and Genetics, Laboratory for Integrative Neuroscience, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, NIH, Rockville, MD 20852-9411, USA.


Rodent models provide a valuable approach to elucidating the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying the deleterious effects of childhood trauma and stress. Neonatal rats and mice emit ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) when separated from the dam and litter. USVs are suppressed in rat pups by exposure to the putatively infanticidal threat of an adult male. In the present study, C57BL/6J mouse pups were exposed to an anaesthetized (non-sire) adult C57BL/6J male for 3-min/day from postnatal days 2-14, and subsequently tested for anxiety-related behaviors (using the novel open field, elevated plus-maze, light/dark exploration tests) and depression-related behavior (using the forced swim test) at 11 weeks of age. In a separate cohort, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-axis activation was measured via plasma corticosterone levels following either a single male-exposure or separation episode. Results showed that pups exposed to an adult male emitted significantly fewer USVs than separation-only counterparts. Corticosterone levels were significantly lower following single exposure to the adult male than separation alone. Repeated neonatal male-exposure did not lead to significant alterations in anxiety- or depression-related behaviors in adulthood. Taken together, present data suggest that the form of adult male-exposure employed did not act as a significant stressor, at least in this mouse strain. Further studies will be needed to determine whether alternative mouse strains, exposure protocols or adult behavioral assays will produce a different pattern of short-term and long-term effects.

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