Cat odour exposure decreases exploratory activity and alters neuropeptide gene expression in CCK2 receptor deficient mice, but not in their wild-type littermates

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An attempt was made to establish whether the anxiogenic effect of cat odour differs in female wild-type and CCK2 receptor deficient mice, having different exploratory activity in the elevated plus-maze. The exposure of wild-type and homozygous CCK2 receptor deficient mice to cat odour did not reveal substantial differences between the two genotypes. The number of contacts with the cat odour impregnated cloth was reduced and the frequency of stretch-attend postures was increased similarly in wild-type and homozygous mice. However, the following exposure of mice to the elevated plus-maze established differences as homozygous mice displayed increased exploratory activity in the plus-maze. The cat odour exposure significantly reduced exploratory activity only in homozygous mice. Together with the increased exploratory activity we established in homozygous mice significantly increased expression of the Oprm1 gene in the frontal cortex and mesencephalon. The exposure of mice to cat odour caused only minor changes in the gene expression of wild-type mice, whereas in homozygous animals a significantly increased expression of the Mc3r gene in the frontal cortex and temporal lobe, and the Pomc1 gene in the temporal lobe, mesencephalon and mesolimbic area was established. In conclusion, CCK2 receptor deficient mice displayed reduced anxiety compared to their wild-type littermates in the plus-maze test. This behavioural effect seems to be related, at least partly, to an increased tone of opioid system in the brain. Moreover, homozygous mice respond to the exposure of cat odour with an increased anxiety. This effect seems to be related to the increased function of the melanocortin system in the brain structures of genetically modified mice.

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