Paternal environmental enrichment transgenerationally alters affective behavioral and neuroendocrine phenotypes

Shlomo Yeshurun, Annabel K. Short, Timothy W. Bredy, Terence Y. Pang, Anthony J. Hannan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


Recent studies have demonstrated that paternal stress in rodents can result in modification of offspring behavior. Environmental enrichment, which enhances cognitive stimulation and physical activity, modifies various behaviors and reduces stress responses in adult rodents. We investigated the transgenerational influence of paternal environmental enrichment on offspring behavior and physiological stress response. Adult C57BL/6J male mice (F0) were exposed to either environmental enrichment or standard housing for four weeks and then pair-mated with naïve females. The F2 generation was generated using F1 male offspring. Male and female F1 and F2 offspring were tested for anxiety using the elevated-plus maze and large open field at 8 weeks of age. Depression-related behavior was assessed using the forced-swim test. Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis function was determined by quantification of serum corticosterone and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) levels at baseline and after forced-swim stress. Paternal environmental enrichment was associated with increased body weights of male F1 and F2 offspring. There was no significant effect on F1 offspring anxiety and depression-related behaviors. There were no changes in anxiety-related behaviors in the F2 offspring, however these mice displayed a reduced latency to immobility in the forced-swim test. Furthermore, F2 females had significantly higher serum corticosterone levels post-stress, but not ACTH. These results show that paternal environmental enrichment exerts a sex-specific transgenerational impact on the behavioral and physiological response to stress. Our findings have implications for the modelling of psychiatric disorders in rodents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-235
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • transgenerational
  • environmental enrichment
  • HPA axis
  • corticosterone
  • stress response
  • epigenetic inheritance


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