Hoxb8 is required for normal grooming behavior in mice.
Repertoires of grooming behaviors critical to survival are exhibited by most animal species, including humans. Genes that influence this complex behavior are unknown. We report that mice with disruptions of Hoxb8 show, with 100% penetrance, excessive grooming leading to hair removal and lesions. Additionally, these mice excessively groom normal cagemates. We have been unable to detect any skin or PNS abnormalities in Hoxb8 mutants. These observations suggest that the excessive, pathological grooming exhibited by these mice results from CNS abnormalities. Consistent with this interpretation, we demonstrate Hoxb8 expression in regions of the adult mouse CNS previously implicated in the control of grooming. The aberrant behavior observed in Hoxb8 mutants is not unlike that of humans suffering from the OC-spectrum disorder, trichotillomania. Interestingly, Hoxb8 is expressed in regions of the CNS known as the "OCD-circuit."