Paternal social enrichment effects on maternal behavior and offspring growth

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Rahia MashoodhFrances A Champagne

Abstract

Paternal environmental experiences are significant predictors of developmental outcomes in offspring and can occur even in the absence of paternal care. Although there has been a recent focus on the role of environmentally induced changes in the male germline in producing these effects, the potential mediating role of mothers has not been investigated. A role for mothers in the transmission of paternal effects has been well acknowledged in behavioral ecology, which predicts that females will dynamically adjust their reproductive investment in response to the qualities of their mate. In the present study, we show that a lifetime of socially enriched compared with impoverished housing conditions shifts anxiety-like behavior and gene expression of male mice. Females that mate with enriched-reared males exhibit increased levels of pup nursing and licking toward their offspring, which are associated with changes in gene expression within the maternal hypothalamus. Significantly, these changes in maternal behavior are correlated with the general levels of anxiety exhibited by their male mates. Further, we show that paternal environmental enrichment results in increased growth of their offspring. These results suggest that maternal-pa...Continue Reading

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