Long-term home cage activity scans reveal lowered exploratory behaviour in symptomatic female Rett mice

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Abstract

Numerous experimental models have been developed to reiterate endophenotypes of Rett syndrome, a neurodevelopmental disorder with a multitude of motor, cognitive and vegetative symptoms. Here, female Mecp2Stop mice [1] were characterised at mild symptomatic conditions in tests for anxiety (open field, elevated plus maze) and home cage observation systems for food intake, locomotor activity and circadian rhythms.

Aged 8–9 months, Mecp2Stop mice presented with heightened body weight, lower overall activity in the open field, but no anxiety phenotype. Although home cage activity scans conducted in two different observation systems, PhenoMaster and PhenoTyper, confirmed normal circadian activity, they revealed severely compromised habituation to a novel environment in all parameters registered including those derived from a non-linear decay model such as initial exploration maximum, decay half-life of activity and span, as well as plateau. Furthermore, overall activity was significantly reduced in nocturnal periods due to reductions in both fast ambulatory movements, but also a slow lingering. In contrast, light-period activity profiles during which the amount of sleep was highest remained normal in Mecp2Stop mice.

These data confirm the slow and progressive development of Rett-like symptoms in female Mecp2Stop mice resulting in a prominent reduction of overall locomotor activity, while circadian rhythms are maintained. Alterations in the time-course of habituation may indicate deficiencies in cognitive processing.

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