Strain-related differences after experimental traumatic brain injury in rats

J Neurotrauma. 2010 Jul;27(7):1243-53. doi: 10.1089/neu.2010.1270.


The present study directly compares the effects of experimental brain injury in two commonly used rat strains: Fisher 344 and Sprague-Dawley. We previously found that Fisher rats have a higher mortality rate and more frequent seizure attacks at the same injury level than Sprague-Dawley rats. Although strain differences in rats are commonly accepted as contributing to variability among studies, there is a paucity of literature addressing strain influence in experimental neurotrauma. Therefore this study compares outcome measures in two rat strains following lateral fluid percussion injury. Fisher 344 and Sprague-Dawley rats were monitored for changes in physiological measurements, intracranial pressure, and electroencephalographic activity. We further analyzed neuronal degeneration and cell death in the injured brain using Fluoro-Jade-B (FJB) histochemistry and caspase-3 immunostaining. Behavioral studies using the beam walk and Morris water maze were conducted to characterize strain differences in both motor and cognitive functional recovery following injury. We found that Fisher rats had significantly higher intracranial pressure, prolonged seizure activity, increased FJB-positive staining in the injured cortex and thalamus, and increased caspase-3 expression than Sprague-Dawley rats. On average, Fisher rats displayed a greater amount of total recording time in seizure activity and had longer ictal durations. The Fisher rats also had increased motor deficits, correlating with the above results. In spite of these results, Fisher rats performed better on cognitive tests following injury. The results demonstrate that different rat strains respond to injury differently, and thus in preclinical neurotrauma studies strain influence is an important consideration when evaluating outcomes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Brain Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Brain Injuries / metabolism*
  • Brain Injuries / mortality
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Fluoresceins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Male
  • Organic Chemicals
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Species Specificity


  • Biomarkers
  • Fluoresceins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Organic Chemicals
  • fluoro jade