Maternal genotype influences stress reactivity of vasopressin-deficient brattleboro rats

J Neuroendocrinol. 2003 Dec;15(12):1105-10. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2826.2003.01101.x.


The role of vasopressin, cosecreted with corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), in stress is debated, because both normal as well as reduced adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH) rise to an acute challenge has been reported in Brattleboro rats genetically lacking vasopressin (di/di). Because di/di pups could be born either from di/+ (heterozygous) or from di/di mothers, and maternal influence is known to modify adult responsiveness, we investigated whether the influence of maternal genotype could explain the variability. Adult rats from mothers with different genotypes were stressed with 60 min restraint and trunk blood was collected for measuring hormone content by radioimmunoassay at the end of stress. All offspring of di/+ mothers had similar ACTH responses to restraint, while the di/di rats born to, and raised by di/di mothers showed reduced ACTH reactivity to restraint. The di/di rats showed elevated water turnover and required a daily cage cleaning every day, which meant frequent handling. To offset the role of handling, all rats had daily cage cleaning in the next series, but the results were the same as in the first series. To investigate whether lactation, the behaviour of the mother or some other factor during the pregnancy is responsible for the differences, pups from di/+ dams were raised by di/di foster mothers and vice versa. We found that the genotype of parental mother is more important than that of the foster mother. The corticosterone and prolactin elevation normally seen after acute stress was unchanged by family history, maternal or personal genotype. Furthermore, in studies with mutant animals, the rearing conditions should be controlled by the experimenter. In experiments with Brattleboro rats, the use of homozygous and heterozygous rats from the same litters of di/+ dams and di/di males is recommended. Our results suggest that vasopressin is not indispensable for ACTH release, and that the di/di genotype of the parental mother can decrease the stress reactivity of the di/di Brattleboro rats.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / blood
  • Animals
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Heterozygote
  • Homozygote
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Prolactin / blood
  • Rats
  • Rats, Brattleboro
  • Restraint, Physical
  • Stress, Physiological / blood*
  • Stress, Physiological / genetics*
  • Vasopressins / genetics*


  • Vasopressins
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Prolactin
  • Corticosterone