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Suitability of tamoxifen-induced mutagenesis for behavioral phenotyping


Sprengel,  Rolf
Department of Molecular Neurobiology, Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, Max Planck Society;

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Vogt, M. A., Chourbaji, S., Brandwein, C., Dormann, C., Sprengel, R., & Gass, P. (2008). Suitability of tamoxifen-induced mutagenesis for behavioral phenotyping. Experimental Neurology, 211(1), 25-33. doi:10.1016/j.expneurol.2007.12.012.

Tamoxifen-induced mutagenesis via the so-called CreER(T2) fusion enzyme is a key technology for the inducible gene knockout in the adult murine brain. However, it requires a subchronic transient treatment with high doses of the non-selective estrogen receptor antagonist tamoxifen. It has been shown earlier that acute tamoxifen treatment causes behavioral alterations, while the long-term behavioral effects of tamoxifen in mice are so far unknown. Therefore C57BL/6 male mice, a common strain used for targeted mutagenesis and behavioral analyses, were subjected to a tamoxifen treatment protocol as used for inducible mutagenesis in vivo, and analyzed for effects on general behavior (locomotion, exploration), emotional behavior (anxiety, depression) and on learning and memory after a drug-free interval period of 4 weeks. The results demonstrate that a test for depression-like behavior, i.e. the Forced Swim Test, is affected even more than 4 weeks after tamoxifen treatment. In contrast, in all other tests, tamoxifen treated mice showed unaltered behaviors, indicating that the currently established 5-day protocol of tamoxifen treatment (40 mg/kg bid) for inducible mutagenesis has no or little effects on the behavior of C57BL/6 male mice after a latency period of 4 weeks. These results are important for all studies using tamoxifen-induced mutagenesis since this protocol obviously does not evoke alterations in general behaviors such as locomotion, exploration or anxiety-like behaviors, which might confound more complex behavioral analyses, nor does it affect standard tests for learning and memory, such as Morris Water Maze, contextual and cued Fear Conditioning and T-Maze learning.