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PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e42544. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0042544. Epub 2012 Aug 3.

Not all mice are equal: welfare implications of behavioural habituation profiles in four 129 mouse substrains.

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Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Animals in Science and Society, Division of Animal Welfare and Laboratory Animal Science, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Safeguarding the welfare of animals is an important aim when defining housing and management standards in animal based, experimental research. While such standards are usually defined per animal species, it is known that considerable differences between laboratory mouse strains exist, for example with regard to their emotional traits. Following earlier experiments, in which we found that 129P3 mice show a lack of habituation of anxiety related behaviour after repeated exposure to an initially novel environment (non-adaptive profile), we here investigated four other 129 inbred mouse substrains (129S2/SvPas, 129S2/SvHsd (exp 1); 129P2 and 129X1 (exp 2)) on habituation of anxiety related behaviour. Male mice of each strain were repeatedly placed in the modified hole board test, measuring anxiety-related behaviour, exploratory and locomotor behaviour. The results reveal that all four substrains show a lack of habituation behaviour throughout the period of testing. Although not in all of the substrains a possible confounding effect of general activity can be excluded, our findings suggest that the genetic background of the 129 substrains may increase their vulnerability to cope with environmental challenges, such as exposure to novelty. This vulnerability might negatively affect the welfare of these mice under standard laboratory conditions when compared with other strains. Based on our findings we suggest to consider (sub)strain-specific guidelines and protocols, taking the (subs)train-specific adaptive capabilities into account.

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