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Front. Behav. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2018.00028

Territorial behaviour and social stability in the mouse require correct expression of imprinted Cdkn1c

Gráinne McNamara1, Rosalind John2 and  Anthony Isles1*
  • 1School of Medicine, Cardiff University, United Kingdom
  • 2School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, United Kingdom

Genomic imprinting, the epigenetic process by which transcription occurs from a single parental allele, is believed influence social behaviours in mammals. An important social behaviour is group living, which is enriched in Eutherian mammals relative to monotremes and marsupials. Group living facilitates resource acquisition, defence of territory and co-care of young, but requires a stable social group with complex inter-individual relationships. Co-occurring with increased group living in Eutherians is an increase in the number of imprinted loci, including that spanning the maternally expressed Cdkn1c. Using a ‘loss-of-imprinting’ model of Cdkn1c (Cdkn1cBACx1), we demonstrated that two-fold over expression of Cdkn1c results in abnormal social behaviours. Although our previous work indicated that male Cdkn1cBACx1 mice were more dominant as measured by tube-test encounters with unfamiliar wild-type males. Building upon this work, using more ecologically relevant assessments of social dominance, indicated that within their normal social group, Cdkn1cBACx1 mice did not occupy higher ranking positions. Nevertheless, we find that presence of Cdkn1cBACx1 animals within a group leads to instability of the normal social hierarchy, as indicated by greater variability in social rank within the group over time and an increase in territorial behaviour in WT cage-mates. Consequently, these abnormal behaviours led to an increased incidence of fighting and wounding within the group. Taken together these data indicate that normal expression of Cdkn1c is required for maintaining stability of the social group and suggests that the acquisition of monoallelic expression of Cdkn1c may have enhanced social behaviour in Eutherian mammals to facilitate group living.

Keywords: Genomic Imprinting, CDKN1C (p57KIP2), Social Dominance, social groups, epigenetics.

Received: 07 Sep 2017; Accepted: 07 Feb 2018.

Edited by:

Xiao-Dong Wang, Zhejiang University, China

Reviewed by:

James P. Curley, University of Texas at Austin, United States
Adam C. Nelson, Harvard University, United States  

Copyright: © 2018 McNamara, John and Isles. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Anthony Isles, Cardiff University, School of Medicine, Hadyn Ellis Building, Mainly Road, Cardiff, CF24 4HQ, United Kingdom,