Estrogen receptors and their role in maternal behavior in mice

Pup licking behavior
The picture shows the careful holding of a pup by a female mouse during the maternal behavior assessment. This kind of affection between female mice and pups considered as a good maternal care.

 Estrogens are primary sex hormones in females and also play a very important role in maintaining normal sperm count in males. The activation of estrogens is performed by binding with estrogen receptors (ERs). Among ERs, ERα plays an important role in determining maternal behavior. Even though there were several reports on the role of ERα with respect to individual difference of maternal behavior, very few study was conducted on role of ERα polymorphisms (change in DNA sequence). In my study I would like to understand the effect of ERα polymorphisms on maternal behavior in mice.

 To study the effect of ERα polymorphisms, we developed the model mice with ERα polymorphism using one of the laboratory mice strain. Then we assessed the change in maternal behavior using the model mice. For example, during behavioral assessment if we place pups in the corners of the cage, a control female mouse retrieves pups quickly and carefully and put them together and takes care of pups. So far, experimental results showed that ERα polymorphism caused the change in maternal behavior. Mice were reluctant to retrieve pups (took more time) when compared to the control mice. In my further studies, I would like to understand the neural mechanism related to change in maternal behavior.

I attended 10th World IBRO (International Brain Research Organization) congress which was held in Deagu, South Korea during September 20-26, 2019. More than 4000 researchers across the world attended this conference and I was fortunate to meet renowned neuroscientists and discuss my work with them during poster session. This brain conference helped me to understand the recent technologies and developments in neurobiology which I can employ for my research in near future.

Genetics,Mallarapu Lalithadevi