Maternal behavior in transgenic mice with reduced fibroblast growth factor receptor function in gonadotropin-releasing hormone neurons
University of Colorado, Integrative Physiology and Center for Neuroscience, UCB 354, Clare Small Rm. 114, Boulder, CO 80309-0354, USA
Behavioral and Brain Functions 2012, 8:47 doi:10.1186/1744-9081-8-47Published: 5 September 2012
Fibroblast growth factors (FGFs) and their receptors (FGFRs) are necessary for the proper development of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons, which are key activators of the hypothalamo-pituitary-gonadal axis. Transgenic mice that have the targeted expression of a dominant negative FGFR (dnFGFR) in GnRH neurons (dnFGFR mice) have a 30% decrease of GnRH neurons. Additionally, only 30–40% of the pups born to the transgenic dams survive to weaning age. These data raised the possibility that FGFR defects in GnRH neurons could adversely affect maternal behavior via novel mechanisms.
We first determined if defective maternal behavior in dnFGFR mothers may contribute to poor pup survival by measuring pup retrieval and a battery of maternal behaviors in primiparous control (n = 10–12) and dnFGFR (n = 13–14) mothers. Other endocrine correlates of maternal behaviors, including plasma estradiol levels and hypothalamic pro-oxyphysin and GnRH transcript levels were also determined using enzyme-linked immunoassay and quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, respectively.
Maternal behaviors (% time crouching with pups, time off pups but not feeding, time feeding, and total number of nesting bouts) were not significantly different in dnFGFR mice. However, dnFGFR dams were more likely to leave their pups scattered and took significantly longer to retrieve each pup compared to control dams. Further, dnFGFR mothers had significantly lower GnRH transcripts and circulating E2, but normal pro-oxyphysin transcript levels.
Overall, this study suggests a complex scenario in which a GnRH system compromised by reduced FGF signaling leads to not only suboptimal reproductive physiology, but also suboptimal maternal behavior.