Joint pathology and behavioral performance in autoimmune MRL-lpr mice
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Young autoimmune MRL-lpr mice perform more poorly than age-matched controls in tests of exploration, spatial learning, and emotional reactivity. Impaired behavioral performance coincides temporally with hyperproduction of autoantibodies, infiltration of lymphoid cells into the brain, and mild arthritic-like changes in hind paws. Although CNS mechanisms have been suggested to mediate behavioral deficits, it was not clear whether mild joint pathology significantly affected behavioral performance. Previously we observed that 11-week-old MRL-lpr mice showed a trend for disturbed performance when crossing a narrow beam. The first aim of the present study was to test the significance of this trend by increasing the sample size and, second, to examine the possibility that arthritis-like changes interfere with performance in brief locomotor tasks. For the purpose of the second goal, 18-week-old mice that differ widely in severity of joint disease were selectively taken from the population and tested in beam walking and swimming tasks. It was expected that the severity of joint inflammation would be positively correlated with the degree of locomotor impairment. The larger sample size revealed that young MRL-lpr mice perform significantly more poorly than controls on the beam-walking test, as evidenced by more foot slips and longer traversing time. However, significant correlation between joint pathology scores and measures of locomotion could not be detected. The lack of such relationship suggests that mild joint pathology does not significantly contribute to impaired performance in young, autoimmune MRL-lpr mice tested in short behavioral tasks.
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