Chronic exposure to inorganic mercury alters stress responses in male prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster)

Marissa Soto, Robert Lewis, J. Thomas Curtis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Male, but not female, prairie voles that experience chronic exposure to inorganic mercury display aberrant social behavior - avoiding unfamiliar conspecifics rather than approaching them. The mechanisms that underlie such behavioral changes are unknown, but likely involve the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. We tested this hypothesis by providing voles of both sexes with mercury chloride in their drinking water for ten weeks and then staging same-sex dyadic encounters after which plasma was assayed for corticosterone as an index of HPA activity. Consistent with sex-specific behavioral responses previously reported, mercury-treated males had lower plasma corticosterone after social encounters than did similarly-treated females or males that consumed normal drinking water. The results suggest that mercury-treated males may be less inclined toward social engagement with conspecifics due to reduced HPA activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-55
Number of pages3
JournalHormones and Behavior
StatePublished - Mar 2019


  • Approach/avoidance
  • Corticosterone
  • HPA axis
  • Heavy metals
  • Social behavior
  • Stress


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