My research interests revolve around the field of neuroethology or more specifically, the question of how small changes in the smallest units of the brain-cells or even subcellular components- can have dramatic effects on the entire organism and change the behavior of the animal or person. I have always been interested in how the fine structure of nature, whether it is feather microstructure as in my master’s thesis, or mutation in a single gene as in my PhD work, can impact and dictate how an animal behaves.
Behavioral Changes in Mice with Low Ambient Extracellular Glutamate Levels
E. Langer, and D. E. Featherstone
Biological Sciences, University of Illinois Chicago, USA
Society for Neuroscience Conference 2012
Cystine-glutamate transporters (xCTs) are the primary determinant of extracellular glutamate in the brain. Extracellular glutamate has been proposed to regulate glutamate receptor function (both iGluRs and mGluRs), and therefore behavior. To test whether xCT function regulates behavior, I examined behavior in xCT mutant mice. Specifically I examined behavior in two different knockouts of the xCT gene (sut and xCT) and their respective genetic controls (C3H/HeJ and C57BL/6J) in an 8 arm memory maze, an elevated plus arm maze, a rotarod task, and a spontaneous alternation task. Female sut mice made fewer alternations and arm choices in the spontaneous alternation task. Male sut mice made fewer choices, but not fewer alternations in this task. sut mice performed similarly to their controls in the 8 arm task, rotarod task, and elevated plus arm maze (though sut females also made fewer arm choices in this task than their controls, but did not vary in amount of time spent in open or closed arms). xCT mice performed similarly to their controls in the spontaneous alternation and rotarod tasks. Female mice of both strains were tested in the spontaneous alternation task to see whether changes in hormone levels during the estrus cycle explained the decreased alternation behavior seen in sut mice. There was no relationship between sex hormones and reduced spontaneous alternation in either strain, leading us to conclude that the reduced arm choice and spontaneous alternation performance seen in sut females is not related to changes in hormone levels across the estrus cycle.