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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Different stress-related phenotypes of BALB/c mice from in-house or vendor: alterations of the sympathetic and HPA axis responsiveness

Jakob Olfe1, Grazyna Domanska1, Christine Schuett1 and Cornelia Kiank12*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Immunology, DFG graduate school GK840, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-University Greifswald, Germany

2 David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA, VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Digestive Diseases Research Center and Center for Neurobiology of Stress, Digestive Diseases Division, Department of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA, USA

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BMC Physiology 2010, 10:2  doi:10.1186/1472-6793-10-2

Published: 9 March 2010



Laboratory routine procedures such as handling, injection, gavage or transportation are stressful events which may influence physiological parameters of laboratory animals and may interfere with the interpretation of the experimental results. Here, we investigated if female BALB/c mice derived from in-house breeding and BALB/c mice from a vendor which were shipped during their juvenile life differ in their HPA axis activity and stress responsiveness in adulthood.


We show that already transferring the home cage to another room is a stressful event which causes an increased HPA axis activation for at least 24 hours as well as a loss of circulating lymphocytes which normalizes during a few days after transportation. However and important for the interpretation of experimental data, commercially available strain-, age- and gender-matched animals that were shipped over-night showed elevated glucocorticoid levels for up to three weeks after shipment, indicating a heightened HPA axis activation and they gained less body weight during adolescence. Four weeks after shipment, these vendor-derived mice showed increased corticosterone levels at 45-min after intraperitoneal ACTH challenge but, unexpectedly, no acute stress-induced glucocorticoid release. Surprisingly, activation of monoaminergic pathways were identified to inhibit the central nervous HPA axis activation in the vendor-derived, shipped animals since depletion of monoamines by reserpine treatment could restore the stress-induced HPA axis response during acute stress.


In-house bred and vendor-derived BALB/c mice show a different stress-induced HPA axis response in adulthood which seems to be associated with different central monoaminergic pathway activity. The stress of shipment itself and/or differences in raising conditions, therefore, can cause the development of different stress response phenotypes which needs to be taken into account when interpreting experimental data.