Cross fostering in mice: Behavioral and physiological carry-over effects in adulthood

A. Bartolomucci, L. Gioiosa, A. Chirieleison, G. Ceresini, S. Parmigiani, P. Palanza

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59 Scopus citations


Cross fostering is a widely used laboratory practice. However, relatively few studies have directly investigated the carry-over effects of this procedure in adult animals. The aim of the present study is to investigate the late effects of cross fostering (CF) at birth (in litters composed of no siblings) on adult mice. When adults, cross-fostered male and female mice were examined for intrasex aggression, and levels of emotionality, exploration and anxiety. In addition, body weight was monitored, several internal organs were weighed and plasma corticosterone levels were measured. When compared to controls, body weight of CF male and female mice was increased, at least after early puberty. CF males showed smaller preputial glands, while basal corticosterone level was not affected by cross fostering. In the free-exploratory test, CF males, but not females, showed a behavioral profile suggestive of lower anxiety. These effects in adulthood cannot be ascribed to differences in the maternal care received, which was not affected by cross fostering. In conclusion, cross fostering at birth induced a number of behavioral and physiological alterations in mice, particularly in males. These findings should be carefully evaluated when applying cross fostering procedure to laboratory animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-122
Number of pages8
JournalGenes, Brain and Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2004


  • Aggressive behavior
  • Body weight
  • Corticosterone
  • Elevated plus maze
  • Free-exploratory paradigm
  • Maternal behavior
  • Sex differences


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