Background: The thermoneutral zone (TNZ) is a species-specific range of ambient temperature (T a), at which mammals can maintain a constant body temperature with the lowest metabolic rate. The TNZ for an adult mouse is between 26 and 34 °C. Interestingly, female mice prefer a higher T a than male mice although the underlying mechanism for this sex difference is unknown. Here, we tested whether gonadal hormones are dominant factors controlling temperature preference in male and female mice. Methods: We performed a temperature preference test in which 10-week-old gonadectomized and sham-operated male and female C57BL/6J mice were allowed to choose to reside at the thermoneutral cage of 29 °C or an experimental cage of 26, 29, or 32 °C. Results: All mice preferred a T a higher than 26 °C, especially in the inactive phase. Choosing between 29 and 32 °C, female mice resided more at 32 °C while male mice had no preference between the temperatures. Hence, the preferred T a for female mice was significantly higher (0.9 ± 0.2 °C) than that for male mice. However, gonadectomy did not influence the T a preference. Conclusions: Female mice prefer a warmer environment than male mice, a difference not affected by gonadectomy. This suggests that thermal-sensing mechanisms may be influenced by sex-specific pathways other than gonadal factors or that the thermoregulatory set point has already been determined prior to puberty.

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Biology of Sex Differences
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Kaikaew, K., Steenbergen, J., Themmen, A., Visser, J., & Grefhorst, A. (2017). Sex difference in thermal preference of adult mice does not depend on presence of the gonads. Biology of Sex Differences, 8(1). doi:10.1186/s13293-017-0145-7