Enriched environment alters the behavioral profile of tenascin-C deficient mice

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Tenascin-C (TnC) is an extracellular matrix glycoprotein implicated in a variety of processes ranging from brain development to synaptic plasticity in the adult vertebrates. Although the role of the TnC gene in regulation of behavior has been investigated, it remained elusive how TnC deficiency interacts with the environment in shaping the behavioral phenotype. To address this, 3-week-old TnC+/+ and TnC-/- male mice were housed over an 8-week period in standard conditions (SC), or enriched environment (EE). A comprehensive battery of tests was used in behavioral phenotyping. When housed in SC, TnC−/− mice showed spontaneous nocturnal hyperactivity, as well as poor sensorimotor coordination and low swimming velocity. However, housing of TnC−/− mice in EE abolished hyperlocomotion, led to faster habituation to novel environment, strengthened the grasp of fore limbs and partially improved movement coordination, while the swimming ability remained deficient. Conversely, TnC deficiency attenuated both the beneficial effects of EE on learning/memory capacity and the anxiolytic effect of EE in reducing the level of acrophobia. This study expands the existing knowledge about the phenotype associated with TnC deficiency, and reveals that the effect of genetic background on the behavioral response could be altered by post-weaning housing in a highly stimulating environment.

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