Lipopolysaccharide facilitates partner preference behaviors in female prairie voles

Physiol Behav. 1999 Dec;68(1-2):151-6. doi: 10.1016/s0031-9384(99)00154-7.


Exposure to proinflammatory cytokines (e.g., IL-1beta) or lipopolysaccharide (LPS) produces an acute activation of the immune response and results in a repertoire of behavioral patterns collectively termed sickness behaviors. Although nonspecific responses to pathogenic infection have traditionally been viewed as maladaptive effects of infection, sickness behaviors may have significant, adaptive value for the host. One set of adaptive behaviors affected by infection among mammals and birds is mate choice. In Experiment 1, female prairie voles exhibited the expected increase in blood corticosterone concentrations in response to a 0.1 cc i.p. LPS injection (50 microg), indicating activation of the endocrine system. A separate cohort of females was injected with LPS or saline and paired for 6 h with a novel, previously unpaired male. Following the cohabitation period, LPS-injected females spent significantly more time (p < 0.05) with the familiar partner when given a choice between familiar and unfamiliar males in a three-chamber apparatus designed to test partner preferences. Saline-injected females spent significantly more time with the unfamiliar male. In Experiment 2, males injected with LPS or saline spent equal amounts of time with familiar and unfamiliar females following a 6 h cohabitation with a naive female, and therefore, did not exhibit preferences. From a proximate perspective, this study provides evidence that sickness behaviors influence female, but not male, partner preference in prairie voles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arvicolinae / immunology*
  • Choice Behavior / physiology
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Cytokines / physiology
  • Female
  • Interleukin-1 / physiology
  • Lipopolysaccharides / immunology*
  • Male
  • Pair Bond
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Social Environment


  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-1
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Corticosterone