Inborn vs. Acquired Anxiety in Cross-Breeding and Cross-Fostering HAB/LAB Mice Bred for Extremes in Anxiety-Related Behavior

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This study focused on genetically determined versus acquired factors in shaping anxiety-related behavior by combining cross-breeding and cross-fostering approaches. Via cross-breeding of HAB (high anxiety-related behavior) female and LAB (low anxiety-related behavior) male mice, we obtained F1 hybrids with intermediate anxiety levels carrying genetic characteristics of both parental lines. Pups were raised either by their biological HAB (noncross-fostered control) or foster LAB (cross-fostered) mothers. Compared to controls, 6-week-old offspring raised by LAB mothers showed lower levels of anxiety in the elevated plus-maze and open field, but not the light-dark box, tests. No differences were found in the forced swim test reflecting active versus passive coping. The behavioral changes were associated with increased stress-induced concentrations of plasma corticosterone in cross-fostered animals. The expression of the corticotropin-releasing hormone receptor type I and glucocorticoid receptor genes did not differ in limbic and hypothalamic brain areas between cross-fostered and control mice. The data suggest that LAB-typical maternal care may partially shift behavioral and neuroendocrine characteristics of F1 crosses carrying both HAB and LAB alleles from intermediate toward reduced anxiety-related behavior.

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