Influence of Temperature on Motor Behaviors in Newborn Opossums (Monodelphis domestica): An In Vitro Study

eNeuro. 2019 Jun 5;6(3):ENEURO.0347-18.2019. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0347-18.2019. Print 2019 May/Jun.


External thermosensation is crucial to regulate animal behavior and homeostasis, but the development of the mammalian thermosensory system is not well known. We investigated whether temperature could play a role in the control of movements in a mammalian model born very immature, the opossum (Monodelphis domestica). Like other marsupials, at birth the opossum performs alternate and rhythmic movements with its forelimbs (FLs) to reach a teat where it attaches in order to continue its development. It was shown that FL movements can be induced by mechanical stimulation of the snout in in vitro preparations of newborns consisting of the neuraxis with skin and FLs intact. In the present study, we used puff ejections of cold, neutral (bath temperature) and hot liquid directed toward the snout to induce FL responses in such preparations. Either the responses were visually observed under a microscope or triceps muscle activity was recorded. Cold liquid systematically induced FL movements and triceps contractions, but neutral and hot temperatures were less potent to do so. Sections of the trigeminal nerves and removal of the facial skin diminished responses to cold and nearly abolished those to hot and neutral stimulations. Transient receptor potential melastatin 8 (TRPM8) being the major cold receptor cation channel in adult mammals, we employed immunohistochemistry and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to test for its expression, but found that it is not expressed before 13 postnatal days. Overall our results indicate that cold thermosensation exerts a strong influence on motor behaviors in newborn opossums.

Keywords: TRPM8; development; motor behaviors; thermosensation; trigeminal system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn / physiology
  • Female
  • Forelimb / physiology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Locomotion
  • Male
  • Monodelphis / growth & development
  • Monodelphis / physiology*
  • Motor Activity*
  • TRPM Cation Channels / physiology
  • Temperature*
  • Thermosensing / physiology*


  • TRPM Cation Channels