Behavior and Immune Status of MRL Mice in the Postweaning Period
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The notion that the MRL-lpr substrain is a useful model of behavioral and cognitive deficits found in systemic autoimmune diseases is supported by the recent findings of behavioral dysfunction in autoimmune MRL-lpr mice compared to their congenic control MRL +/+ mice. However, it has not been established whether the altered behavioral profile in MRL-lpr mice is the result of the autoimmune process itself or reflects a subtle difference in genetic background or both. To address the question whether MRL-lpr mice are born with behavioral dysfunction the present study compares the behavior of the two MRL substrains in the early postweaning period, when their immune status does not show detectable difference. Results show that the prediseased (4- to 6-week-old) MRL-lpr mice are not distinguishable from the congenic MRL +/+ controls on most behavioral measures except for speed of locomotion and novelty-induced hyperactivity in activity monitors. The immune status of the two substrains is also similar except for a lower hematocrit in the MRL-lpr group. Surprisingly, low amounts of antinuclear and brain-reactive antibodies (possibly transferred from diseased mothers) were detected in the serum of about 50% of the mice in both groups. The lack of major differences in behavior in the premorbid period suggests that appearance of previously reported behavioral dysfunction in the disease state reflects the presence of autoimmunity, time-determined genetic activation, or both.
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