Nociception and conditioned fear in rats: strains matter

Manon W H Schaap, Hugo van Oostrom, Arie Doornenbal, José van 't Klooster, Annemarie M Baars, Saskia S Arndt, Ludo J Hellebrekers

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

    18 Citations (Scopus)


    When using rats in pain research, strain-related differences in outcomes of tests for pain and nociception are acknowledged. However, very little is known about the specific characteristics of these strain differences. In this study four phylogenetically distant inbred rat strains, i.e. Wistar Kyoto (WKY), Fawn Hooded (FH), Brown Norway (BN) and Lewis (LE), were investigated in different tests related to pain and nociception. During Pavlovian fear conditioning, the LE and WKY showed a significantly longer duration of freezing behaviour than the FH and BN. Additionally, differences in c-Fos expression in subregions of the prefrontal cortex and amygdala between rat strains during retrieval and expression of conditioned fear were found. For example, the BN did not show recruitment of the basolateral amygdala, whereas the WKY, FH and LE did. During the hot plate test, the WKY and LE showed a lower thermal threshold compared to the BN and FH. In a follow-up experiment, the two most contrasting strains regarding behaviour during the hot plate test and Pavlovian fear conditioning (i.e. FH and WKY) were selected and the hot plate test, Von Frey test and somatosensory-evoked potential (SEP) were investigated. During the Von Frey test, the WKY showed a lower mechanical threshold compared to the FH. When measuring the SEP, the FH appeared to be less reactive to increasing stimulus intensities when considering both peak amplitudes and latencies. Altogether, the combined results indicate various differences between rat strains in Pavlovian fear conditioning, nociception related behaviours and nociceptive processing. These findings demonstrate the necessity of using multiple rat strains when using tests including noxious stimuli and suggest that the choice of rat strains should be considered. When selecting a strain for a particular study it should be considered how this strain behaves during the tests used in that study.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)e83339
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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