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Open Access What Goes Around Can Come Around: An Unexpected Deleterious Effect of Using Mouse Running Wheels for Environmental Enrichment

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Environmental enrichment items such as running wheels can promote the wellbeing of laboratory mice. Growing evidence suggests that wheel running simulates exercise effects in many mouse models of human conditions, but this activity also might change other aspects of mouse behavior. In this case study, we show that the presence of running wheels leads to pronounced and permanent circling behavior with route-tracing in a proportion of the male mice of a genetically distinct cohort. The genetic background of this cohort includes a mutation in Arhgap19, but genetic crosses showed that an unknown second-site mutation likely caused the induced circling behavior. Behavioral tests for inner-ear function indicated a normal sense of gravity in the circling mice. However, the levels of dopamine, serotonin, and some dopamine metabolites were lower in the brains of circling male mice than in mice of the same genetic background that were weaned without wheels. Circling was seen in both singly and socially housed male mice. The additional stress of fighting may have exacerbated the predisposition to circling in the socially housed animals. Singly and socially housed male mice without wheels did not circle. Our current findings highlight the importance and possibly confounding nature of the environmental and genetic background in mouse behavioral studies, given that the circling behavior and alterations in dopamine and serotonin levels in this mouse cohort occurred only when the male mice were housed with running wheels.
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Document Type: Case Report

Affiliations: 1: Departments of Biological Sciences, Neurochemical Research Unit, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada;, Email: [email protected] 2: Psychiatry, Neurochemical Research Unit, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 3: Departments of Biological Sciences, Neurochemical Research Unit, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Publication date: 01 March 2017

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  • The Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (JAALAS) serves as an official communication vehicle for the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS). The journal includes a section of refereed articles and a section of AALAS association news. The mission of the refereed section of the journal is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information on animal biology, technology, facility operations, management, and compliance as relevant to the AALAS membership. JAALAS accepts research reports (data-based) or scholarly reports (literature-based), with the caveat that all articles, including solicited manuscripts, must include appropriate references and must undergo peer review.

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