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, 218 (Pt 2), 223-7

A Genetic Reduction in Antioxidant Function Causes Elevated Aggression in Mice

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A Genetic Reduction in Antioxidant Function Causes Elevated Aggression in Mice

Michael Garratt et al. J Exp Biol.

Abstract

Male-male aggression can have a large influence on access to mates, particularly in highly territorial animals such as mice. It has been suggested that males with impaired antioxidant defence and a consequential increased susceptibility to oxidative stress may have a reduced ability to invest in aggressive behaviours, which could limit their mating opportunities and reproductive success. Oxidative stress occurs as a result of an uncontrolled over-production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in relation to defence mechanisms (such as antioxidants), and can cause damage to a variety of different cellular components. Impairments in specific aspects of antioxidant defence, leading to oxidative stress, can limit investment in some reproductive traits in males, such as sperm quality and the production of sexual signals to attract mates. However, a direct effect of impaired antioxidant defence on aggressive behaviour has not, to our knowledge, been reported. In this study, we demonstrate that mice with experimentally elevated sensitivity to oxidative stress (through inhibition of copper-zinc superoxide dismutase, Sod1) actually show the opposite response to previous predictions. Males completely deficient in SOD1 are more aggressive than both wild-type males and males that express 50% of this antioxidant enzyme. They are also faster to attack another male. The cause of this increased aggression is unknown, but this result highlights that aggressive behaviour in mice is not highly constrained by inhibited Sod1 expression, in contrast to other reproductive traits known to be impaired in this mouse model.

Keywords: Dominance; Fitness; Life history; Mouse.

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