Behavioral and transcriptomic fingerprints of an enriched environment in horses (Equus caballus)

Léa Lansade, Mathilde Valenchon, Aline Foury, Claire Neveux, Steve W. Cole, Sophie Layé, Bruno Cardinaud, Frédéric Lévy, Marie-Pierre Moisan
PLoS ONE. 2014-12-10; 9(12): e114384
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0114384

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1. PLoS One. 2014 Dec 10;9(12):e114384. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0114384.
eCollection 2014.

Behavioral and Transcriptomic Fingerprints of an Enriched Environment in Horses
(Equus caballus).

Lansade L(1), Valenchon M(1), Foury A(2), Neveux C(1), Cole SW(3), Layé S(2),
Cardinaud B(4), Lévy F(1), Moisan MP(2).

Author information:
(1)INRA, UMR85 Physiologie de la Reproduction et des Comportements, Nouzilly,
France; CNRS, UMR7247 Physiologie de la Reproduction et des Comportements,
Nouzilly, France; Université François Rabelais de Tours, Tours, France; IFCE,
Nouzilly, France.
(2)INRA, Nutrition et neurobiologie intégrée, UMR 1286, Bordeaux, France;
Université Bordeaux, Nutrition et neurobiologie intégrée, UMR 1286, Bordeaux,
France.
(3)Division of Hematology-Oncology, Department of Medicine, University of
California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, United States of America.
(4)INSERM, U1035, Biothérapies des Maladies Génétiques et Cancers, Bordeaux and
Institut Polytechnique de Bordeaux, Talence, France.

The use of environmental enrichment (EE) has grown in popularity over decades,
particularly because EE is known to promote cognitive functions and well-being.
Nonetheless, little is known about how EE may affect personality and gene
expression. To address this question in a domestic animal, 10-month-old horses
were maintained in a controlled environment or EE for 12 weeks. The control
horses (n = 9) lived in individual stalls on wood shaving bedding. They were
turned out to individual paddocks three times a week and were fed three times a
day with pellets or hay. EE-treated horses (n = 10) were housed in large
individual stalls on straw bedding 7 hours per day and spent the remainder of the
time together at pasture. They were fed three times a day with flavored pellets,
hay, or fruits and were exposed daily to various objects, odors, and music. The
EE modified three dimensions of personality: fearfulness, reactivity to humans,
and sensory sensitivity. Some of these changes persisted >3 months after
treatment. These changes are suggestive of a more positive perception of the
environment and a higher level of curiosity in EE-treated horses, explaining
partly why these horses showed better learning performance in a Go/No-Go task.
Reduced expression of stress indicators indicated that the EE also improved
well-being. Finally, whole-blood transcriptomic analysis showed that in addition
to an effect on the cortisol level, the EE induced the expression of genes
involved in cell growth and proliferation, while the control treatment activated
genes related to apoptosis. Changes in both behavior and gene expression may
constitute a psychobiological signature of the effects of enrichment and result
in improved well-being. This study illustrates how the environment interacts with
genetic information in shaping the individual at both the behavioral and
molecular levels.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0114384
PMCID: PMC4262392
PMID: 25494179 [Indexed for MEDLINE]


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