Abnormal behavioral organization of grooming in mice lacking the vitamin D receptor gene

Allan V. Kalueff*, Yan Ru Lou, Ilkka Laaksi, Pentti Tuohimaa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Vitamin D is a steroid hormone with several important functions in the nervous system. Numerous human and animal data link alterations in the vitamin D system to various behavioral disorders. Grooming is an important element of rodent behavior with a general pattern of cephalocaudal progression (paw licking - nose/face wash - body wash - tail/genitals wash). Here we studied whether genetic ablation of vitamin D nuclear receptors (VDR) in mice may be associated with altered behavioral sequencing of grooming. Overall, VDR null mutant mice showed abnormal grooming, including a higher percentage of "incorrect" transitions and longer duration of "incorrect" grooming (contrary to the cephalocaudal progression); a higher percentage of interrupted grooming bouts; and the atypical regional distribution of grooming (more leg grooming, less body and tail/genitals grooming), compared to their wild-type controls. Grooming of heterozygous mice was similar to the wild-type group, indicating that abnormal grooming patterning is inherited as a recessive. In contrast, behavioral sequencing of another complex behavior (mating with a female) was unaltered in all three genotypes, suggesting grooming-specific abnormal sequencing in these mutant mice. Our results suggest that a neurosteroid vitamin D and VDR may play an important role in controlling sequencing of grooming in mice, and further confirm the important role of the vitamin D system and VDR in the regulation of behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Neurogenetics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Behavioral sequences
  • Nuclear receptor knockout
  • Null-mutant homozygotes and heterozygotes
  • Sexual behavior


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