Weegh, N., Füner, J., Janke, O. et al. 2020. Wheel running behaviour in group-housed female mice indicates disturbed wellbeing due to DSS colitis. Laboratory Animals 54(1), 63–72.

Voluntary wheel running (VWR) behaviour is a sensitive indicator of disturbed wellbeing and used for the assessment of individual experimental severity levels in laboratory mice. However, monitoring individual VWR performance usually requires single housing, which itself might have a negative effect on wellbeing. In consideration of the 3Rs principle, VWR behaviour was evaluated under group-housing conditions. To test the applicability for severity assessment, this readout was evaluated in a dextran sodium sulphate (DSS) induced colitis model. For continuous monitoring, an automated system with integrated radio-frequency identification technology was used, enabling detection of individual VWR. After a 14-day adaptation period mice demonstrated a stable running performance. Analysis during DSS treatment in combination with repeated facial vein phlebotomy and faecal sampling procedure resulted in significantly reduced VWR behaviour during the course of colitis and increased VWR during disease recovery. Mice submitted to phlebotomy and faecal sampling but no DSS treatment showed less reduced VWR but a longer-lasting recovery. Application of a cluster model discriminating individual severity levels based on VWR and body weight data revealed the highest severity level in most of the DSS-treated mice on day 7, but a considerable number of control mice also showed elevated severity levels due to sampling procedures alone. In summary, VWR sensitively indicated the course of DSS colitis severity and the impact of sample collection. Therefore, monitoring of VWR is a suitable method for the detection of disturbed wellbeing due to DSS colitis and sampling procedure in group-housed female laboratory mice.

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