Effects of the nonagouti coat-color allele on behavior of deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus): a comparison with Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus)

J Comp Psychol. 1997 Dec;111(4):419-23. doi: 10.1037/0735-7036.111.4.419.


The agouti locus influences coat color by antagonizing melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH) at its receptor on pigment cells and may antagonize MSH in neural tissue. This study replicates work on rats to assess whether behavioral (neural) effects of the agouti locus are as similar across mammals as those on coat color. Handling, open-field, platform jump, and food-novelty tests were conducted on agouti and nonagouti deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) following protocols in C. A. Cottle and E. O. Price (1987). As with rats, nonagouti deer mice were less aggressive, less active, and easier to handle compared with their agouti counterparts. Nonagouti deer mice also groomed more than agouti subjects. Thus, behavioral effects of the agouti locus are conservative, and agouti may be an important modulator of melanocortins in neural as well as integumentary tissue.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Agouti Signaling Protein
  • Alleles*
  • Animals
  • Arousal / genetics*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Female
  • Genetics, Behavioral
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic / genetics
  • Hair Color / genetics*
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins*
  • Male
  • Peromyscus / genetics*
  • Proteins / genetics*
  • Rats / genetics*
  • Receptors, Corticotropin / genetics
  • Receptors, Melanocortin
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Species Specificity


  • Agouti Signaling Protein
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Proteins
  • Receptors, Corticotropin
  • Receptors, Melanocortin