A deficit in brain serotonin is thought to be associated with deteriorated stress coping behaviour, affective disorders and exaggerated violence. We challenged this hypothesis in mice with a brain-specific serotonin depletion caused by a tryptophan hydroxylase 2 (TPH2) deficiency. We tested TPH2-deficient (Tph2(-/-)) animals in two social situations. As juveniles, Tph2(-/-) mice displayed reduced social contacts, whereas ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) were unchanged within same-sex same-genotype pairings. Interestingly, juvenile females vocalized more than males across genotypes. Sexually naive adult males were exposed to fresh male or female urine, followed by an interaction with a conspecific, and re-exposed to urine. Although Tph2(-/-) mice showed normal sexual preference, they were hyper-aggressive towards their interaction partners and did not vocalize in response to sexual cues. These results highlight that central serotonin is essential for prosocial behaviour, especially USV production in adulthood, but not for sexual preference.
Keywords: TPH2; aggression; serotonin; social behaviour; ultrasonic vocalization.
© 2015 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.