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Tail Suspension Test

Purpose: The tail suspension test (TST) was developed as a rodent screening test for potential (human) antidepressant drugs. It is based on the assumption that an animal will actively try to escape an aversive (stressful) stimulus. If escape is impossible, the animal will eventually stop trying ("give up"). In the TST a mouse is suspended by the tail so that its body dangles in the air, facing downward. The test lasts for six or more minutes and may be repeated multiple times. Mice initially struggle to face upward and climb to a solid surface. When the animal stops struggling and hangs immobile it is considered to have “given up”.  Longer periods of immobility are characteristic of a depressive-like state.  The validity of this test stems from the finding that treatment with an antidepressant drug will decrease the time the animal spends immobile.

Species used: mice

Important Considerations:

  1. Mice are suspended (a variable distance) above a solid surface by the use of adhesive tape applied to the tail. If the tape is incorrectly applied or fails, the mouse will fall. The use of a “cushioned” surface below the TST may be needed to help prevent injury to the animal. Mice that experience a fall should be removed from the experiment1.
  2. Vinyl or medical adhesive tape is recommended. Duct tape is too adhesive and will tear hair and skin when removed1. The tape should be applied in a consistent position ¾ of the distance from the base of the mouse’s tail2. If the tape is applied too near the tip of the tail it may pull off the skin of the tail tip and the mouse will fall.
  3. Some strains (e.g., C57BL/6J) may not perform well in the TST due to tail climbing behavior. Strains with vestibular deficits may show an abnormal spinning phenotype and should not be used in the TST. Other mouse phenotypes that display neurological abnormalities that lead to unusual leg clasping behavior or that influence immobility times may also not be appropriate models for this test1.

USDA Category: E

Alternative tests: Porsolt swim test and others2.

References:

  1. CL Bergner, AN Smolinsky, PC Hart, BD Dufour, RJ Egan, JL LaPorte, AV Kalueff. 2010. Mouse Models for Studying Depression-Like States and Antidepressant Drugs.  In: Mouse Models for Drug Discovery, Methods in Molecular Biology 602: 267-282.
  2. Castagné V, Moser P, Porsolt RD. Behavioral Assessment of Antidepressant Activity in Rodents. In: Buccafusco JJ, editor. Methods of Behavior Analysis in Neuroscience. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press; 2009. Chapter 6. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK5222/
  3. B Thierry, L Steru, P Simon, RD Porsolt. 1986. The tail suspension test: Ethical considerations. Psychopharmacology 90: 284-285.