Sickness and Aggressive Behavior in Dominant and Subordinate Mice*


  • *

    This work is part of a research project to obtain a doctoral degree in the Program of Post-graduation on Experimental and Comparative Pathology of the Department of Pathology of the School of Veterinary Medicine of the University of São Paulo.

Daniel W. H. Cohn, Rua Prof. Dr Orlando de Paiva, 87, Cidade Universitária, São Paulo 05508-900, Brazil. E-mail:


Sick animals show a set of organized behavioral changes (sickness behavior), which is the result of a motivational re-organization of the behavior as a whole. Sickness behavior display can be influenced by the social context. In this work, we sought to investigate the regulation of sickness behavior within a pair of mice in the presence of an intruder mouse. Dominant and subordinate mice were treated with the bacterial endotoxin lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and were challenged with the presence of an intruder mouse. LPS effects depended on ranking and social context. Even though dominant mice displayed more agonistic interaction towards the intruder, subordinate mice displayed agonistic behavior towards the intruder when their dominant companion was treated with LPS. The results show that, not only sickness behavior is differentially expressed among different social ranks, but also that sickness behavior is related to different reactions among surrounding animals. These data are relevant for a biological approach to the relation between sickness behavior and social behavior.