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Pheromones identified that trigger aggression between male mice
Date:12/5/2007

A family of proteins commonly found in mouse urine is able to trigger fighting between male mice, a study in the Dec. 6, 2007, issue of Nature has found. The study, which is the first to identify protein pheromones responsible for the aggression response in mice, was funded in part by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), one of the National Institutes of Health. Pheromones are chemical cues that are released into the air, secreted from glands, or excreted in urine and picked up by animals of the same species, initiating various social and reproductive behaviors.

"Although the pheromones identified in this research are not produced by humans, the regions of the brain that are tied to behavior are the same for mice and people. Consequently, this research may one day contribute to our understanding of the neural pathways that play a role in human behavior," says James F. Battey, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., director of the NIDCD. "Much is known about how pheromones work in the insect world, but we know very little about how these chemicals can influence behavior in mammals and other vertebrates."

Researchers at Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, Calif., and Harvard University chose to study aggression for this study because it is a strongly exhibited social behavior in male mice. Because mouse urine had already been linked to aggressive behavior in males, the team narrowed the field of pheromone candidates by separating out progressively smaller compounds in the urine and studying their effects on both mouse behavior and their ability to activate sensory receptor neurons in the vomeronasal organ. The vomeronasal organ is one of two locations in the mouse's nasal cavity that houses sensory receptor cells that detect pheromones. The other location is the main olfactory epithelium, the part of the nasal cavity that also detects smells. Earlier research conducted by the group had determined that receptor neurons fr
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Contact: Jennifer Wenger
jwenger@mail.nih.gov
301-496-7243
NIH/National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
Source:Eurekalert

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