Elmi, A., Galligioni, V., Govoni, N. et al. 2020. Quantification of hair corticosterone, DHEA and testosterone as a potential tool for welfare assessment in male laboratory mice. Animals 10(12), 2408.

Steroids, providing information regarding several biological patterns including stress and sexual behavior, have been investigated in different matrices in laboratory mice. Data regarding hair quantification, indicative of longer timespans when compared to blood and saliva, are lacking. The aim of the work was to analyze the hormonal hair profile of laboratory male mice and to investigate potential relationships with age and housing, as a potential tool for welfare assessment. Fifty-six adult male C57BL/6J and C57BL/6OlaHsd substrain mice were included in the study, housed in pairs or groups. Testosterone (T) and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) were quantified by radioimmunoassay, corticosterone (CORT) by ELISA. Mean hormone levels were 6.42 pg/mg for T, 23.16 pg/mg for DHEA and 502.1 pg/mg for CORT. Age influenced all hormones by significantly increasing T and DHEA levels and decreasing CORT; only DHEA, significantly higher in grouped mice, was influenced by housing conditions. The influence of age indicates the need for accurate age-related reference intervals, while the higher levels of DHEA in grouped animals suggests that such housing practice may be beneficial for social interactions. In conclusion, it seems that hair hormones quantification may be a good tool for welfare assessment in laboratory mice and may help in refining husbandry.

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