Social status in mice: Behavioral, endocrine and immune changes are context dependent

Alessandro Bartolomucci, Paola Palanza, Leda Gaspani, Elena Limiroli, Alberto E. Panerai, Graziano Ceresini, Marco D. Poli, Stefano Parmigiani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

165 Scopus citations


The aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of social status on the endocrine, immune and behavior response of male mice. We found that in mice reared in a group of siblings since weaning, no difference exists between dominants and subordinates in basal corticosterone level, in behavior in the open-field test (OFT) and in a series of immune parameters. These results suggest that living with siblings is not a stressful condition for either dominant or subordinate mice. Therefore, group-housed siblings can be regarded as a valid control group in social stress studies. When mice were subjected to chronic psychosocial stress for 21 days, four types of social outcome occurred: residents becoming dominants, intruders becoming subordinates, residents becoming subordinates and intruders becoming dominants. Interestingly, the behavioral profile in the OFT revealed a status-dependent effect, with resident dominants (RD) and intruder dominants (InD) showing the highest locomotor and exploratory activity, whereas the corticosterone level was higher than control for all four categories. In addition, a context-dependent effect emerged at the immune level: resident subordinates (RS) had a reduced splenocyte proliferation and IL-4 and IL-10 production. Mice in all the other three social ranks showed no immune alterations. Therefore, the loss of an individual's social rank position seems a promising field of study to investigate the psychological impact of stressful events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)401-410
Number of pages10
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to thank Paola Sacerdote, Fabio Morellini, Maria Ida Razzoli, Maarten H.P. Kole, Laura Gioiosa, Diego Solieri, Valeria Vascelli and Romano Romani for kind help in several phases of the present work. This work was financially supported by grants from MURST and CNR.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Control group
  • Corticosterone
  • Group housing
  • House mouse
  • IFN-γ
  • IL-10
  • IL-2
  • IL-4
  • Open field
  • Psychosocial stress
  • Social status
  • Splenocyte proliferation
  • β-Endorphin


Dive into the research topics of 'Social status in mice: Behavioral, endocrine and immune changes are context dependent'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this