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Pregnant mice block out unwelcome admirers to protect their pups
Date:7/20/2008

anterior part of the mouse brain that is dedicated to the processing of odours. The dopamine flood is triggered by the physical stimulation during mating and progressively impairs the perception and discrimination of social odours contained in male urine. Treating pregnant mice with chemicals that block the dopamine receptor D2 abolished the barrier effect, restored odour sensing and favoured pregnancy disruption.

The findings unexpectedly reveal the main olfactory bulb as a key control centre of social and reproductive behaviour. Previous research in this area had focussed almost exclusively on other brain circuits. The main olfactory bulb likely achieves its control through projections to the amygdala and the hypothalamus, those regions of the brain that regulate emotional and reproductive behaviour through the release of hormones.

Dopamine is also found in humans, where it is mostly known for its role as the brain's 'reward chemical' that plays crucial roles in addiction and neurological disorders like Parkinson's disease, but it is also found in the human olfactory bulb. It is unknown if a process similar to the phenomenon observed in mice takes place in pregnant women.

"As far as we know, human pregnancy is not affected by strange male odours, but it could help explain why many women report changes in olfaction during pregnancy," says Che Serguera, who carried out the research in Minichiello's lab.


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Contact: Anna-Lynn Wegener
wegener@embl.de
49-622-138-7452
European Molecular Biology Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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