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Scripps research scientists discover chemical triggers for aggression in mice
Date:12/6/2007

anding the aggression pathway as a general model for brain response.

As a first step in the current study, the group sought to identify specific chemical triggers for aggression in mice, which other researchers had shown involved urine. The Stowers group separated out several classes of chemicals within the urine, then individually swabbed each class onto the backs of castrated mice to determine which could spark an aggressive response by another male. Castrated males lose the ability to elicit aggression on their own, so any such response could be attributed to the added chemicals.

Using this experimental setup, the researchers were able to show specific compounds triggered aggression. Upon examination, the scientists found that these compounds fell into two distinct chemical groups-low molecular weight and high molecular weight proteins.

Particularly intriguing were the high molecular weight compounds, as few high molecular weight compounds exist in urine and none had ever before been shown to act as pheromones. The Stowers group focused on these for the remainder of the study.

Tracing Phermones Path

Next, the Stowers lab sought to discover the effect of these high molecular weight compounds on two neurological organs that could potentially convey the pheromone signals to the brain. The first, called the vomeronasal organ (VNO), is located above the roof of the mouth in the nasal cavity. The second is the main olfactory epithelium (MOE), found under the eyeball at the top back portion of the nasal cavity.

Which of these two organs is the main starting point for the aggression pathway is somewhat controversial. Stowers' group had shown in past work that mice genetically altered to lack the VNO did not have aggression responses, suggesting this organ plays a key role, but other researchers had made similar findings with knockout mice lacking the MOE.

To further explore this aspect of signal pro
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Contact: Keith McKeown
kmckeown@scripps.edu
858-784-8134
Scripps Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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