Estrous cycle effects on behavior of C57BL/6J and BALB/cByJ female mice: implications for phenotyping strategies


*W. Krezel, Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire (IGBMC), Institut Clinique de la Souris (ICS), BP10142, 67404 Illkirch Cedex, France. E-mail:


Systematic behavioral phenotyping of genetically modified mice is a powerful method with which to identify the molecular factors implicated in control of animal behavior, with potential relevance for research into neuropsychiatric disorders. A number of such disorders display sex differences, yet the use of female mice in phenotyping strategies has been a rare practice because of the potential variability related to the estrous cycle. We have now investigated the behavioral effects of the estrous cycle in a battery of behavioral tests in C57BL/6J and BALB/cByJ inbred strains of mice. Whereas the performance of BALB/cByJ female mice varied significantly depending on the phase of the estrous cycle in the open field, tail flick and tail suspension tests, the behavior of C57BL/6J females, with the exception of the tail suspension performance, remained stable across all four phases of the estrous cycle in all of the tests including open field, rotarod, startle reflex and pre-pulse inhibition, tail flick and hot plate. We also found that irrespective of the estrous cycle, the behavior of C57BL/6J females was different from that of BALB/cByJ groups in all of the behavioral paradigms. Such strain differences were previously reported in male comparisons, suggesting that the same inter-group differences can be revealed by studying female or male mice. In addition, strain differences were evident even for behaviors that were susceptible to estrous cycle modulations, although their detection might necessitate the constitution of large experimental groups.