Group Housing and Nest Building Only Slightly Ameliorate the Cold Stress of Typical Housing in in Female C57BL/6J Mice
Huddling and nest building are two methods of behavioral thermoregulation utilized by mice under cold stress. In the laboratory, mice are typically housed at an ambient temperature (Ta) of 20°C, well below the lower end of their thermoneutral zone. We tested the hypothesis that the thermoregulatory benefits of huddling and nest building at a Ta of 20°C would ameliorate this cold stress as compared to being singly housed at 20°C as assessed by heart rate (HR), blood pressure (BP), triiodothyronine (T3), brown adipose (BAT) expression of Elovl3 mRNA, and BAT lipid content. A series of experiments using C57BL/6J female mice exposed to 20°C in the presence or absence of nesting material and/or cage mates was used to test this hypothesis. Mice showed large differences in HR, BP, shivering, and core body temperature (Tb) when comparing singly housed mice at 20°C and 30°C, but only a modest reduction in just HR with the inclusion of cage mates or bedding. However, group housing and/or nesting at 20°C decreased T3 levels as compared to singly housed mice at 20°C. Singly housed mice at 20°C had a 22-fold higher level of BAT Elovl3 mRNA expression and a significantly lower triacylglycerol (TAG) content of BAT when compared to singly housed mice at 30°C. Group housing at 20°C led to blunted changes in both Elovl3 mRNA and TAG levels. These findings suggest that huddling and nest building have a limited effect to ameliorate the cold stress associated with housing at 20°C.