Individually ventilated cages impose cold stress on laboratory mice: a source of systemic experimental variability.

TitleIndividually ventilated cages impose cold stress on laboratory mice: a source of systemic experimental variability.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsDavid JM, Knowles S, Lamkin DM, Stout DB
JournalJ Am Assoc Lab Anim Sci
Date Published2013 Nov
KeywordsAdipose Tissue, Brown, Animals, Animals, Laboratory, Body Temperature Regulation, Body Weight, Cold-Shock Response, Housing, Animal, Male, Mice, Neoplasms

Individual ventilated cages (IVC) are increasing in popularity. Although mice avoid IVC in preference testing, they show no aversion when provided additional nesting material or the cage is not ventilated. Given the high ventilation rate in IVC, we developed 3 hypotheses: that mice housed in IVC experience more cold stress than do mice housed in static cages; that IVC-induced cold stress affects the results of experiments using mice; and that, when provided shelters, mice behaviorally thermoregulate and thereby rescue the cold-stress effects of IVC. To test these hypotheses, we housed mice in IVC, IVC with shelters, and static cages maintained at 20 to 21 °C. We quantified the cold stress of each housing system on mice by assessing nonshivering thermogenesis and brown adipose vacuolation. To test housing effects in a common, murine model of human disease, we implanted mice with subcutaneous epidermoid carcinoma cells and quantified tumor growth, tumor metabolism, and adrenal weight. Mice housed in IVC had histologic signs of cold stress and significantly higher nonshivering thermogenesis, smaller subcutaneous tumors, lower tumor metabolism, and larger adrenal weights than did mice in static cages. Shelters rescued IVC-induced nonshivering thermogenesis, adrenal enlargement, and phenotype-dependent cold-mediated histologic changes in brown adipose tissue and tumor size. IVC impose chronic cold stress on mice, alter experimental results, and are a source of systemic confounders throughout rodent-dependent research. Allowing mice to exhibit behavioral thermoregulation through seeking shelter markedly rescues the experiment-altering effects of housing-imposed cold stress, improves physiologic uniformity, and increases experimental reproducibility across housing systems.

Alternate JournalJ. Am. Assoc. Lab. Anim. Sci.
PubMed ID24351762
PubMed Central IDPMC3838608
Grant ListF30 CA165824 / CA / NCI NIH HHS / United States
T32 GM008042 / GM / NIGMS NIH HHS / United States