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Behav Brain Res. 2008 Jun 26;190(1):97-104. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2008.02.009. Epub 2008 Feb 15.

A new test paradigm for social recognition evidenced by urinary scent marking behavior in C57BL/6J mice.

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Pacific Biosciences Research Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa, HI, USA.


Olfaction is a major sensory element in intraspecies recognition and communication in mice. The present study investigated scent marking behaviors of males of the highly inbred C57BL/6J (C57) strain in order to evaluate the ability of these behaviors to provide clear and consistent measures of social familiarity and response to social signals. C57 males engage in scent marking when placed in a chamber with a wire mesh partition separating them from a conspecific. Male mice (C57 or outbred CD-1 mice) showed rapid habituation of scent marking (decreased marking over trials) with repeated exposure at 24-h intervals, to a stimulus animal of the C57 or CD-1 strains, or to an empty chamber. Subsequent exposure to a genetically different novel mouse (CD-1 after CD-1 exposure, or CD-1 after C57 exposure) or to a novel context (different shaped chamber) produced recovery of marking, while responses to a novel but genetically identical mouse (C57 after C57 exposure) or to the empty chamber did not. This finding demonstrated that male mice differentiate familiar and novel conspecifics as expressed by habituation and recovery of scent marking, but neither C57 or CD-1 mice can differentiate new vs. familiar C57 males; likely due to similarities in their odor patterns. The data also indicate that scent marking can differentiate novel from familiar contexts.

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