Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Evaluation of methods and applications for behavioural profiling of transgenic mice

Vootele Vőikar

Doctoral dissertation, August 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Biosciences, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Physiology and University of Helsinki, Neuroscience Center and University of Helsinki, Institute of Biotechnology.

During the last 10-15 years interest in mouse behavioural analysis has evolved considerably. The driving force is development in molecular biological techniques that allow manipulation of the mouse genome by changing the expression of genes. Therefore, with some limitations it is possible to study how genes participate in regulation of physiological functions and to create models explaining genetic contribution to various pathological conditions.

The first aim of our study was to establish a framework for behavioural phenotyping of genetically modified mice. We established comprehensive battery of tests for the initial screening of mutant mice. These included tests for exploratory and locomotor activity, emotional behaviour, sensory functions, and cognitive performance. Our interest was in the behavioural patterns of common background strains used for genetic manipulations in mice. Additionally we studied the behavioural effect of sex differences, test history, and individual housing. Our findings highlight the importance of careful consideration of genetic background for analysis of mutant mice. It was evident that some backgrounds may mask or modify the behavioural phenotype of mutants and thereby lead to false positive or negative findings. Moreover, there is no universal strain that is equally suitable for all tests, and using different backgrounds allows one to address possible phenotype modifying factors. We discovered that previous experience affected performance in several tasks. The most sensitive traits were the exploratory and emotional behaviour, as well as motor and nociceptive functions. Therefore, it may be essential to repeat some of the tests in naďve animals for assuring the phenotype. Social isolation for a long time period had strong effects on exploratory behaviour, but also on learning and memory. All experiments revealed significant interactions between strain and environmental factors (test history or housing condition) indicating genotype-dependent effects of environmental manipulations.

Several mutant line analyses utilize this information. For example, we studied mice overexpressing as well as those lacking extracellular matrix protein heparin-binding growth-associated molecule (HB-GAM), and mice lacking N-syndecan (a receptor for HB-GAM). All mutant mice appeared to be fertile and healthy, without any apparent neurological or sensory defects. The lack of HB-GAM and N-syndecan, however, significantly reduced the learning capacity of the mice. On the other hand, overexpression of HB-GAM resulted in facilitated learning. Moreover, HB-GAM knockout mice displayed higher anxiety-like behaviour, whereas anxiety was reduced in HB-GAM overexpressing mice. Changes in hippocampal plasticity accompanied the behavioural phenotypes. We conclude that HB-GAM and N-syndecan are involved in the modulation of synaptic plasticity in hippocampus and play a role in regulation of anxiety- and learning-related behaviour.

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Last updated 03.08.2006

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