Impaired maternal behavior in mice lacking norepinephrine and epinephrine

Cell. 1997 Nov 28;91(5):583-92. doi: 10.1016/s0092-8674(00)80446-8.


The roles of norepinephrine (NE) and epinephrine in behavior were investigated by targeted disruption of the dopamine beta-hydroxylase (Dbh) gene, thereby eliminating these compounds in vivo. Most heterozygous pups born to Dbh-/- females died within several days of birth and were often found scattered within the bedding. Potential causes including deficits in olfaction and lactation were not apparent. A deficit in maternal behavior was confirmed by the lack of pup retrieval exhibited by Dbh-/- virgin females. Restoration of NE shortly before but not after birth induced females that previously abandoned their litters to act maternally. Our results suggest that NE is responsible for long-lasting changes that promote maternal behavior during both development and parturition in mice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antiparkinson Agents / pharmacology
  • Discrimination Learning
  • Droxidopa / pharmacology
  • Epinephrine / deficiency
  • Epinephrine / genetics*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior / drug effects
  • Maternal Behavior / physiology*
  • Memory / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred DBA
  • Mice, Mutant Strains
  • Norepinephrine / deficiency
  • Norepinephrine / genetics*
  • Pheromones / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Smell / physiology
  • Survival Analysis


  • Antiparkinson Agents
  • Pheromones
  • Droxidopa
  • Norepinephrine
  • Epinephrine