The Behavioural And Physical Development Of The Athymic Nude Mouse

Morgan, David Reginald (1981). The Behavioural And Physical Development Of The Athymic Nude Mouse. MPhil thesis The Open University.



A colony of outbred athymic nude mice was established using barrier maintenance systems. Heterozygous females were mated with homozygous nude males and the behaviour of the parents rearing mixed litters was examined using an observational time-sampling procedure. Longitudinal and cross-sectional behavioural and morphological studies on developing nude and hairy offspring were carried out from birth until weaning at day 28. Weaned mice who had not been subjected to any prior experimental situations were tested for exploratory behaviour in an open field.

Behavioural scan results indicate that heterozygous mothers display normal maternal behaviour and will build good nests in the proximity of the food/water containers. The male parent also demonstrated maternal behaviour. A high level of out-of-nest activity was found by the end of the second week post-partum, which correlated with cage activity and eating and drinking behaviour. Nude pups had difficulty in locating and attaching to the nipple and body weight curves confirmed that nude and hairy mice develop at different rates, even though nursed by the same dam. Litter manipulation experiments suggest that nudes benefit from the presence of hairy pups and that hairy pups could survive a 3 day period deprived of maternal care and milk and then successfully re-establish suckling when returned to the home nest. Ultrasonic calling experiments suggest that nude mice may produce more calls which are of longer duration than hairy mice when subjected to cold and isolation stress.

Nude mice appear retarded in their physical and behavioural development and do not explore an open field as actively as hairy
pups at weaning. Retarded growth, a high incidence of neonatal mortality and alteration in behaviour may be related to early
malnutrition and lack of later stimulation; the possible influences of athymia however, must also be considered.

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