Drug development requires animal models to test efficacy. With over 50 years of development and optimization, the Dextran Sulfate Sodium Salt (DSS) ulcerative colitis (UC) model, among various animal models, is widely used to study the etiology and pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Fig1. The development of the DSS ulcerative colitis model
Multiple acute or chronic symptoms of UC can be induced, such as diarrhea, mucus-like stool, fecal occult blood, gross bloody stool, weight loss, decreased activity, and poor coat color, by different DSS doses.
|DSS colitis model category||acute colitis model||Chronic phase colitis model|
|histological changes||Colon hyperemia, edema, shortening, brittleness, increased weight-to-length ratio||significantly shortened colon|
|Colon ulcers of varying degrees||Mucosal thickening, lymphadenopathy|
|Mucosal edema, goblet cell loss, crypt swelling and destruction||goblet cell loss, crypt loss|
|Different degrees of inflammatory cell infiltration in the mucosa and submucosa, epithelial cell damage||Adenomatous polyps and tumor-like changes in a small number of animals|
Table 1 Histological characteristics of DSS colitis model
Advantages of the DSS UC Model
👍 1. The protocols are easy to be implemented.
👍 2. The DSS UC model closely resembles human UC symptoms with high repeatability.
👍 3. Various characteristic symptoms can be induced by controlling the administrated DSS dose, which was unique for the DSS UC model.
👍 4. The DSS UC model can be generated with a variety of widely used model animals, such as mice, rats, zebrafish, pigs, fruit flies, etc.
👍 5. IBD-induced colitis associated cancer (CAC) model can be created with the combined use of azoxymethane (AOM).
1) BALB/c mice, female, 6-8 weeks, 25 g;
2) Sterile drinking water with 3% DSS, and filter with a 0.22 μm membrane;
3) DSS was administrated for 7 days;
4) Inflammation, such as colon edema and congestion, were observed after HE staining.
Fig.2 HE staining results of DSS acute colitis sections 
1) Culture zebrafish embryos in E3 embryo medium containing methyl blue at 28.5 °C to 1 dpf ;
2) Add 0.5% DSS to the E3 medium and filter with a 0.22 μm membrane;
3) 0.5% DSS treatment is from 3dpf to 6 dpf;
4) Pathological changes of zebrafish liver and inflammatory stress were observed.
Fig.3 DSS induces inflammatory response in zebrafish liver 
1) Yorkshire piglets at age of 4-5 days;
2) DSS dose: 1.25g/kg, oral intake for 5 days;
3) Increased D-mannitol uptake rate was observed.
Fig.4 DSS-induced D-mannitol concentration in piglets was higher than that in the control group 
1) Drosophila, female, 5-10 days;
2) Feeding medium was prepared with 5% sucrose solution containing 3% DSS and 25 μg/mL bleomycin;
3) Drosophila was cultured at 29°C for three days with a daily change of culture bottle;
4) DSS induced the proliferation of ISC precursor cells and had a lethal effect on drosophila.
Fig.5 DSS induces the proliferation of ISC precursor cells in Drosophila .
The model was evaluated with multiple parameters including body weight, fecal viscosity and occult blood, through which generates the overall DAI.
percent weight loss
fecal occult blood
gross bloody stool
Table 2 DAI scoring rules
The scores were given for the above indicators based on the histological changes excluding the lymph node formation for the acute colitis model. The HE staining reagents used is Cat#60524ES60.
Ulcer ( s )
Lymph node( s )
goblet cell loss
goblet cell loss
Infiltration of the muscularis mucosae
General infiltration of the muscularis mucosa, thickening of the mucosa
Extensive crypt loss or polypoid regeneration
Table 3 Histological change score
The shortened colon length was an obvious phenotype for the chronic colitis model, while similar changes can be detected on day 8 for the acute colitis model.
Preliminary experiments are recommended for using the DSS UC animal model with appropriate control. 8-10 animals per group are minimal requirements. DAI is the criteria to evaluate the results from a preliminary study.
Successful acute colitis models are generated with Yeasen DSS (Cat#60316ES, MW: 36000~50000) in 7 days with prominent phenotype as shown in the following table.
BALB/c mice, female, 6-8 weeks, 25 g
3%-5% DSS drink freely for 7 consecutive days
Day 5 appeared, the length of the colon was shortened, HE staining, and the inflammation was obvious
molding speed is fast and the time is short. Consistent with the characteristics of acute colitis model
C57BL/6 mice, male, 8 weeks, 20 g
3%-5% DSS by gavage, continuous administration
Day 5 occurs, colon shortening, weight loss, blood in the stool, diarrhea
High mold rate and short duration. Consistent with the characteristics of acute colitis model
C57BL/6 mouse, male, 8 weeks, 22 g
1-2% DSS by gavage, continuous administration
Day40 appears, colon shortening, weight loss, blood in the stool, diarrhea
High molding rate . Consistent with the characteristics of the chronic colitis model
C57BL/6 mouse, male, 8 weeks, 21 g
1%-2% DSS ad libitum for 5 days for 3 weeks
14 weeks with shortened colon length, weight loss, HE staining, and obvious inflammation
High molding rate . Consistent with colon cancer model characteristics
Regardless of acute DSS colitis model or chronic DSS colitis model, the severity and success of enteritis are related to mouse species (different genetic backgrounds), DSS concentration, and dosing cycle.
high mortality in mice
DSS concentration too high
Decrease the concentration of DSS administered
Mice with no or low symptoms of enteritis
DSS concentration too low
Increase DSS dosing concentration; decrease cycle interval (10-14 days)
In the same group of mice, the symptoms of enteritis vary greatly
bottle cap clogged
Check the mouse drinking bottle daily
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