Smith, B. J., Bruner, K., Kendall, L. V. 2019. Female- and intruder-induced ultrasonic vocalizations in C57BL/6J mice as proxy indicators for animal wellbeing. Comparative Medicine 69(5), 374–383.
Female urine-induced male mice ultrasonic vocalizations (FiUSV) are ultrasonic vocalizations produced by adult male mice after presentation of adult female urine, whereas intruder-induced ultrasonic vocalizations (IiUSV) are produced by resident adult female mice when interacting with an intruder female mouse. These affiliative behaviors may be reduced when mice have decreased wellbeing or are in pain and distress. To determine whether FiUSV and IiUSV can be used as proxy indicators of animal wellbeing, we assessed FiUSV produced by male C57BL/6J mice in response to female urine and IiUSV produced by female C57BL/6J mice in response to a female intruder at baseline and 1 and 3 h after administration of a sublethal dose of LPS (6 or 12.5 mg/kg IP) or an equal volume of saline. Behavior was assessed by evaluating orbital tightness, posture, and piloerection immediately after USV collection. We hypothesized that LPS-injected mice would have a decreased inclination to mate or to interact with same-sex conspecifics and therefore would produce fewer USV. At baseline, 32 of 33 male mice produced FiUSV (149 ± 127 USV in 2 min), whereas all 36 female mice produced IiUSV (370 ± 156 USV in 2 min). Saline-injected mice showed no change from baseline at the 1- and 3-h time points, whereas LPS-injected mice demonstrated significantly fewer USV than baseline, producing no USV at both 1 and 3 h. According to orbital tightness, posture, and piloerection, LPS-injected mice showed signs of poor wellbeing at 3 h but not 1 h. These findings indicate that FiUSV and IiUSV can be used as proxy indicators of animal wellbeing associated with acute inflammation in mice and can be detected before the onset of clinical signs.