The neuroimmune changes induced by cohabitation with an Ehrlich tumor-bearing cage mate rely on olfactory information

Brain Behav Immun. 2012 Jan;26(1):32-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2011.07.228. Epub 2011 Jul 20.


Cohabitation for 14 days with Ehrlich tumor-bearing mice was shown to increase locomotor activity, to decrease hypothalamic noradrenaline (NA) levels, to increase NA turnover and to decrease innate immune responses and decrease the animals' resistance to tumor growth. Cage mates of a B16F10 melanoma-bearer mice were also reported to show neuroimmune changes. Chemosignals released by Ehrlich tumor-bearing mice have been reported to be relevant for the neutrophil activity changes induced by cohabitation. The present experiment was designed to further analyze the effects of odor cues on neuroimmune changes induced by cohabitation with a sick cage mate. Specifically, the relevance of chemosignals released by an Ehrlich tumor-bearing mouse was assessed on the following: behavior (open-field and plus maze); hypothalamic NA levels and turnover; adrenaline (A) and NA plasmatic levels; and host resistance induced by tumor growth. To comply with such objectives, devices specifically constructed to analyze the influence of chemosignals released from tumor-bearing mice were employed. The results show that deprivation of odor cues released by Ehrlich tumor-bearing mice reversed the behavioral, neurochemical and immune changes induced by cohabitation. Mice use scents for intraspecies communication in many social contexts. Tumors produce volatile organic compounds released into the atmosphere through breath, sweat, and urine. Our results strongly suggest that volatile compounds released by Ehrlich tumor-injected mice are perceived by their conspecifics, inducing the neuroimmune changes reported for cohabitation with a sick companion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Carcinoma, Ehrlich Tumor / immunology*
  • Carcinoma, Ehrlich Tumor / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Ehrlich Tumor / psychology*
  • Cues*
  • Epinephrine / blood
  • Epinephrine / metabolism
  • Female
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism
  • Illness Behavior / physiology
  • Mice
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Neuroimmunomodulation / physiology*
  • Neutrophil Activation / physiology
  • Norepinephrine / blood
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism
  • Odorants
  • Smell / physiology*
  • Social Behavior


  • Norepinephrine
  • Epinephrine