Lewis/Fischer rat strain differences in endocrine and behavioural responses to environmental challenge

Thomas Stöhr, Thomas Szuran, Hans Welzl, Vladimir Pliska, Joram Feldon, Christopher R. Pryce*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Lewis (LEW) and Fischer (F344) rat strains provide a comparative model of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) function in which LEW is relatively hypoactive at homeostasis and hyporeactive to environmental challenge. The present study describes a comparison of LEW and F344 rats, males and females, in terms of their corticosterone (CORT) or behavioural responses to a range of behavioural tasks, where each of the tasks used contains a stressor component and has been demonstrated to be sensitive to corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) and/or CORT manipulation: acoustic startle response (ASR), elevated plus maze, schedule-induced polydipsia, and fear-conditioned suppression of drinking. Our aim was to determine to what extent the LEW trait of HPA axis hyporesponsiveness is associated with strain differences in behavioural responsiveness to environmental challenge. As expected, young (2-3 months)-mature (5-10 months) LEW males and females exhibited a lesser CORT response to restraint and novel confinement than did F344 males and females, although in old adulthood (18 months) the CORT stress response was equable in LEW/F344 males and actually higher in LEW than in F344 females. In young-mature adults, the ASR was greater in LEW males than in the other groups; all groups spent a low proportion of time on the open arms of the elevated plus maze; polydipsia was greater in F344 females than in the other groups; and fear-conditioned suppression of drinking was greater in F344 males and females than in LEW males and females. Therefore, relative hyporeactivity of the HPA axis in LEW rats is clearly not associated with uniform behavioural hyporeactivity, including CRF-dependent behaviours. Rather, this study suggests further evidence that environmental reactivity reflects a number of distinct emotional states and underlying neural circuits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)809-819
Number of pages11
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • CRF
  • Emotional behaviour
  • Fischer rat
  • HPA axis
  • Lewis rat
  • Stressor


Dive into the research topics of 'Lewis/Fischer rat strain differences in endocrine and behavioural responses to environmental challenge'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this