Elevated Fos-like immunoreactivity in the brains of postpartum female prairie voles, Microtus ochrogaster

Laura F. Katz, Gregory F. Ball, Randy J. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


This study investigated the expression of the protein product of the immediate early gene c-fos in the brains of female prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) in association with pregnancy and postparturient activities including maternal behavior, lactation and postpartum estrus. Fos expression was assessed in female voles that were late in pregnancy, nonpregnant or at one of three different times postpartum (0-8, 12-24, and 24-48 h, respectively). A significant increase in the number of cells displaying Fos immunoreactivity (Fos-ir) was observed during the 0-8 h and 12-24 h postpartum time periods in the accessory olfactory bulbs, medial preoptic area, hypothalamus (specifically, the supraoptic nucleus, ventromedial hypothalamus, and paraventricular nucleus), lateral septum, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, and primary somatosensory area of the brain. The number of Fos-ir cells decreased after 24 h postpartum. There were no significant changes in Fos-ir cell numbers in the primary olfactory bulbs, hippocampus, or caudate putamen. The neural activation of the medial preoptic area, accessory olfactory bulbs, hypothalamus, and bed nucleus is consistent with reports in rats of Fos induction associated with the onset of maternal behavior. In voles postpartum estrous behavior begins and ends 0-12 h after parturition. Maternal behavior, including lactation, is initiated at the same time but persists for several weeks. The highest Fos-ir cell numbers reported here coincide with the timing of postpartum estrous behavior in this species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)425-435
Number of pages11
JournalCell and Tissue Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999


  • Estrus
  • Immediate early gene
  • Immunocytochemistry
  • Maternal behavior
  • Microtus ochrogaster (Rodentia)
  • Postpartum estrus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology
  • Cell Biology


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