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Behav Genet. 2009 Mar;39(2):202-12. doi: 10.1007/s10519-008-9248-6. Epub 2008 Dec 19.

Cross-fostering effects on weight, exploratory activity, acoustic startle reflex and corticosterone stress response in Norway gray rats selected for elimination and for enhancement of aggressiveness towards human.

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Institute of Cytology and Genetics, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Novosibirsk, Russia.


Two rat lines, one tame, the other aggressive, differing by many behavioral features and stress reactivity were developed by long-term selection of wild gray rats for elimination and enhancement of aggressiveness towards humans. The aim of this work was to study the role of the maternal environment in the expression of these differences between the two rat lines using the cross-fostering paradigm. Fostering of tame rats of both sexes by aggressive mothers and aggressive females by tame mothers was without effect on behavior score towards humans, but the cross-fostered aggressive males had a small, yet significant, increase in aggressiveness score. Cross-fostering revealed that exploratory behavior in the hole-board test and the acoustic startle amplitude were weakly affected by maternal interactions, although there was an effect on body weight and on the stress corticosterone response. Body weight was decreased in tame males fostered by aggressive mothers only and it was increased in cross-fostered aggressive rats of both sexes. Fostering of tame males and females by an aggressive mother enhanced almost twofold the corticosterone response immediately after stress, while fostering of aggressive ratlings of both sexes by a tame mother was without effect. The current results demonstrated that the maternal postnatal environment had no substantial effect on the behavioral responses of both tame and aggressive rats, but it possibly contributed to the development of the corticosterone response to restraint stress in the tame, and not the aggressive rats, i.e. these effects of cross-fostering were dependent on ratling genotype.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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