Adult vitamin D deficiency leads to behavioural and brain neurochemical alterations in C57BL/6J and BALB/c mice

Behav Brain Res. 2013 Mar 15;241:120-31. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2012.12.001. Epub 2012 Dec 10.


Epidemiological evidence suggests that low levels of vitamin D may predispose people to develop depression and cognitive impairment. While rodent studies have demonstrated that prenatal vitamin D deficiency is associated with altered brain development, there is a lack of research examining adult vitamin D (AVD) deficiency. The aim of this study was to examine the impact of AVD deficiency on behaviour and brain function in the mouse. Ten-week old male C57BL/6J and BALB/c mice were fed a control or vitamin D deficient diet for 10 weeks prior to, and during behavioural testing. We assessed a broad range of behavioural domains, excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission in brain tissue, and, in separate groups of mice, locomotor response to d-amphetamine and MK-801. Overall, AVD deficiency resulted in hyperlocomotion in a novel open field and reduced GAD65/67 levels in brain tissue. AVD-deficient BALB/c mice had altered behaviour on the elevated plus maze, altered responses to heat, sound and shock, and decreased levels of glutamate and glutamine, and increased levels of GABA and glycine. By contrast C57BL/6J mice had a more subtle phenotype with no further behavioural changes but significant elevations in serine, homovanillic acid and 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid. Although the behavioural phenotype of AVD did not seem to model a specific disorder, the overall reduction in GAD65/67 levels associated with AVD deficiency may be relevant to a number of neuropsychiatric conditions. This is the first study to show an association between AVD deficiency and prominent changes in behaviour and brain neurochemistry in the mouse.

MeSH terms

  • Amphetamine / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase / metabolism
  • Catecholamines / metabolism
  • Diet
  • Dizocilpine Maleate / pharmacology
  • Exploratory Behavior / drug effects
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / metabolism
  • Glutamate-Ammonia Ligase / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Monoamine Oxidase / metabolism
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Social Behavior
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / metabolism*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / physiopathology
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / psychology


  • Catecholamines
  • Dizocilpine Maleate
  • Amphetamine
  • Monoamine Oxidase
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase
  • Glutamate-Ammonia Ligase