Background: Ageing male DBA/1 mice spontaneously develop arthritis in the hind paws. We and others have demonstrated that this model shares striking features with human spondyloarthritis, in particular entheseal involvement, progressive ankylosis but also dactylitis. Here, we report on our recent experience with this model highlighting how changes in the animal facility affect the development of the disease.
Findings: Ageing male DBA/1 mice from different litters were caged together (6 mice per cage) at the age of 10 weeks. The mice were checked twice a week for clinical signs of arthritis. Disease severity was assessed in further detail post-mortem by scoring for histomorphological characteristics. DBA/1 mice spontaneously develop macroscopically detectable arthritis, presenting as joint swelling or toe stiffness. Standard settings with open cages lead to an almost 100% incidence by the age of 26 weeks. The introduction of larger cages and filter tops reducing exposure to other cages dramatically affected incidence. Other negative factors include excess bedding material reducing the impact of walking and running. Switching back to the original conditions resulted again in a high incidence, further optimized by sensory exposure to female mice. We also showed that the related DBA/2 strain is sensitive to the disease.
Conclusions: Changing environmental factors in the housing conditions of DBA/1 mice severely affects the spontaneous development of arthritis. This points out that the model is very sensitive to external stress and sensory factors that are likely affecting the behavior of the male mice and that the model needs to be optimized in different situations.