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Why Can't Rodents Vomit? A Comparative Behavioral, Anatomical, and Physiological Study

Horn, CC and Kimball, BA and Wang, H and Kaus, J and Dienel, S and Nagy, A and Gathright, GR and Yates, BJ and Andrews, PLR (2013) Why Can't Rodents Vomit? A Comparative Behavioral, Anatomical, and Physiological Study. PLoS ONE, 8 (4).

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The vomiting (emetic) reflex is documented in numerous mammalian species, including primates and carnivores, yet laboratory rats and mice appear to lack this response. It is unclear whether these rodents do not vomit because of anatomical constraints (e.g., a relatively long abdominal esophagus) or lack of key neural circuits. Moreover, it is unknown whether laboratory rodents are representative of Rodentia with regards to this reflex. Here we conducted behavioral testing of members of all three major groups of Rodentia; mouse-related (rat, mouse, vole, beaver), Ctenohystrica (guinea pig, nutria), and squirrel-related (mountain beaver) species. Prototypical emetic agents, apomorphine (sc), veratrine (sc), and copper sulfate (ig), failed to produce either retching or vomiting in these species (although other behavioral effects, e.g., locomotion, were noted). These rodents also had anatomical constraints, which could limit the efficiency of vomiting should it be attempted, including reduced muscularity of the diaphragm and stomach geometry that is not well structured for moving contents towards the esophagus compared to species that can vomit (cat, ferret, and musk shrew). Lastly, an in situ brainstem preparation was used to make sensitive measures of mouth, esophagus, and shoulder muscular movements, and phrenic nerve activity-key features of emetic episodes. Laboratory mice and rats failed to display any of the common coordinated actions of these indices after typical emetic stimulation (resiniferatoxin and vagal afferent stimulation) compared to musk shrews. Overall the results suggest that the inability to vomit is a general property of Rodentia and that an absent brainstem neurological component is the most likely cause. The implications of these findings for the utility of rodents as models in the area of emesis research are discussed. © 2013 Horn et al.


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Item Type: Article
Status: Published
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Horn, CCchorn@pitt.eduCHORN
Kimball, BA
Wang, Hhow8@pitt.eduHOW80000-0003-0477-2908
Kaus, Jjsk34@pitt.eduJSK34
Dienel, SDienel.Samuel@medstudent.pitt.eduSJD47
Nagy, A
Gathright, GR
Yates, BJBYATES@pitt.eduBYATES0000-0001-6819-097X
Andrews, PLR
ContributionContributors NameEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Centers: Other Centers, Institutes, Offices, or Units > Center for Neuroscience
Date: 10 April 2013
Date Type: Publication
Journal or Publication Title: PLoS ONE
Volume: 8
Number: 4
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1371/journal.pone.0060537
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Neuroscience
School of Public Health > Biostatistics
School of Medicine > Anesthesiology
School of Medicine > Medicine
School of Medicine > Otolaryngology
Refereed: Yes
Date Deposited: 03 May 2013 21:07
Last Modified: 15 May 2024 11:55


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