Vogt, M. E., Riesgo, V. R., Flanigan, K. A. S. et al. 2022. Housing environment affects pubertal onset, anxiety-like behavior, and object interaction in male and female Long Evans rats. JAALAS 61(3), 241-247.
Rodents used for research can be humanely housed in a variety of ways. As such, a vast number of different housing environments are used, but are often not described in research publications. However, many elements of housing environments, including bedding, diet, water bottles, and cage material, can expose rodents to natural and synthetic compounds that can have lasting effects on the body, brain, and behavior. Some environmental items contain endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs), which can affect many commonly assessed physiological and behavioral endpoints in rodents. Here, we compare the effects of 2 commonly used housing environments for male and female Long Evans rats on body weight, pubertal onset, and a battery of behavioral tests measuring activity, anxiety-like behavior, and cognition. One standard environment was comparatively high in EDCs (standard rodent chow, plastic cages, plastic water bottles, and corncob bedding), while the other was a relatively low-EDC environment (phytoestrogen-free chow, polysulfone cages, glass water bottles, and wood-chip bedding). As compared with the Standard group, rats raised in the Low-EDC environment reached puberty earlier, displayed less anxiety-like behavior in the elevated plus maze and open field test, and showed less overall object exploration in the novel object recognition task. These effects occurred only if rats had been raised in these conditions since conception. An acute change from one environment to the other in adulthood did not yield these same effects. These results provide further evidence for the effects of common housing environments on development and behavior and highlight the importance of reporting environmental conditions in the literature to promote reproducibility in research using animal subjects.