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Effects of social stress and intrauterine position on sexual phenotype in wild-type house mice (Mus musculus)


John G. Vandenbergh
Monica M. Montano



Publication type:

Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Primary Station(s):

Pacific Southwest Research Station


Physiology & Behavior 9(1): 117-123


Wild-type house mice were used to test the effect of intrauterine position on anogenital distance (AGD) and to verify whether crowding stress would masculinize female pups, developing at all intrauterine positions, as has been demonstrated in CF-1 mice stressed by restraint, heat, and light. Stress of crowding was documented by comparing aggressive behavior, litter birth weights, and plasma corticosterone levels among females in different densities. AGDs were recorded from pups born to females housed from day 12 to 19 of gestation either individually with their mate (nonstressed) or in one of two group-housed densities. Female pups from nonstressed dams positioned between two males in utero (2M females) had longer AGDs than females positioned between two females (0M females). AGDs of males from nonstressed dams did not differ on the basis of intrauterine position. Group-housed pregnant females in the higher of two densities had female pups with longer AGDs than female pups of other dams. However, variance in female pup AGD was no different among dams in different densities. These results extend to the wild house mouse previous findings in albino mice that intrauterine position influences sexual phenotype. In addition, social stress can induce masculinization of female pups in wild mice as physical stress has been shown to do in albinos. This suggests that intrauterine position effects and their modification by crowding stress can potentially influence the dynamics of wild house mouse populations.


Zielinski, William J.; Vandenbergh, John G.; Montano, Monica M. 1991. Effects of social stress and intrauterine position on sexual phenotype in wild-type house mice (Mus musculus). Physiology & Behavior 9(1): 117-123

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