1022-7954/04/4006- © 2004
Russian Journal of Genetics, Vol. 40, No. 6, 2004, pp. 631–637. Translated from Genetika, Vol. 40, No. 6, 2004, pp. 779–786.
Original Russian Text Copyright © 2004 by Kulikov.
Catalepsy is a prolonged immobility with a marked
plastic muscular tone. An animal or a human being in
the cataleptic state cannot perform voluntary move-
ments and, hence, change an uncomfortable position
once they have been forced to assume it. Catalepsy is
found in various vertebrates from ﬁshes to mammals
. In ﬁshes and amphibians, catalepsy is an integral
part of the daily activity cycle . In mammals, cata-
lepsy is a hereditary strategy of passive defensive
behavior; it serves for the protection from predators or
for decreasing the intensity of the attacks of more
aggressive individuals in intraspeciﬁc conﬂicts [2–6].
A hypertrophied, inadequate form of catalepsy is a
syndrome of severe neurological and psychiatric dis-
Hereditary predisposition to the cataleptic immobil-
ity reaction has been found in chicken [10, 11], quails
[12, 13], and rats [14–18].
The so-called pinch-induced catalepsy, which is
provoked by repeatedly pinching the animal’s skin on
the scruff of the neck, has been observed in mice .
If a mouse in the state of pinch-induced catalepsy is
placed on bars, it remains immobile for a long time.
Mouse strains considerably vary with respect to the
expression of pinch-induced catalepsy [20–22].
The purpose of this review is to discuss the results
of our studies on the genetic and molecular mecha-
nisms of the predisposition to catalepsy in mice per-
formed in the Institute of Cytology and Genetics of the
Siberian Division of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
The main problem with studying pinch-induced cat-
alepsy is the poor reproducibility of this phenomenon
[19, 20]. We solved this problem by using a stricter cri-
terion for detecting cataleptic animals, with special
emphasis on the reproducibility of the phenomenon.
A mouse was considered cataleptic only if it displayed
catalepsy in at least three tests. This method allowed us
to identify the animals that were actually predisposed to
catalepsy [21, 22].
We found considerable differences in the predispo-
sition to catalepsy between nine inbred mouse strains
maintained in the Institute of Cytology and Genetics of
the Siberian Division of the Russian Academy of Sci-
ences for more than 25 years [21, 22]. Catalepsy was
never detected in AKR, C57BL/6, DBA/1, and CC57Br
mice. In strains C3H/He, A/He, BALB/c, and DD,
about 10% of mice proved to be cataleptic. CBA was
the only “true cataleptic” strain: already after 4 to 5
tests 54% of CBA mice developed stable, reproducible
catalepsy, which lasted for several minutes. We did not
ﬁnd sex-related differences (
> 0.2). The penetrance of
this trait did not change during 11 years of observa-
The incomplete penetrance of the trait has not been
explained thus far. A genetic heterogeneity of the strain
is certainly excluded, because the offsprings of catalep-
tic and noncataleptic parents did not differ signiﬁcantly
with respect to the number of cataleptic mice (
Therefore, strain CBA is isogenic and there is no mater-
nal effect. On the other hand, we found environmental
effects, namely, the effect of social rank on the expres-
sion of catalepsy in CBA males [23, 24].
Genetic and Molecular Mechanisms of Catalepsy in Mice
A. V. Kulikov
Institute of Cytology and Genetics, Siberian Division, Russian Academy of Sciences, Novosibirsk, 630090 Russia;
fax: (3832)33-12-78; e-mail: email@example.com
Received September 10, 2003
—The results of experiments on the inheritance and neurobiological mechanism of high predisposi-
tion to tonic immobility (catalepsy) in CBA mice are discussed. Genetic analysis has demonstrated a mono-
genic inheritance of the predisposition to catalepsy. A set of polymorphic microsatellite markers has been used
to demonstrate that the predisposition to catalepsy is linked to the distal fragment of mouse chromosome 13,
which contains the gene of the 5-HT
serotonin receptor. Pharmacological and biochemical evidence for the
association between hereditary catalepsy and 5-HT
receptor dysfunction are presented. The use of CBA mice
for studying the mechanisms of depression and the effects of antidepressants is discussed.