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PLoS One. 2013 Jul 17;8(7):e68673. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0068673. Print 2013.

Low incidence of miscarriage induced by the scent of male littermates of original mates: male kinship reduces the bruce effect in female mice, Mus musculus.

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  • 1Ministry of Education, Key Laboratory of Biodiversity Science and Ecological Engineering, College of Life Sciences, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China.


The scent of a novel male can elicit pregnancy block in recently mated female mice (Mus musculus), a phenomenon known as the Bruce effect. Despite abundant literature on the Bruce effect in rodents, it remains unclear whether males related to a female's original mate can induce the Bruce effect in out-bred, communally living mice. We investigated this question using Kunming (KM) male mice of varying genetic relatedness. Recently mated females were subjected to three treatments: exposure to the urine of the mate, urine of the mate's male littermate, and urine of a male unrelated to the mate. It was found that the urine of male littermates of the females' mates did not elicit more pregnancy block than that of the females' mates. However, the urine of novel males caused a higher rate of female miscarriage than that of the females' mates. By using a habituation-dishabituation paradigm, we found that unmated females could discriminate the urine scents of two male littermates from those of a novel male unrelated to the littermates. To understand how females use urinary cues to discriminate between males with different genetic relationships, we used gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to examine the volatile composition of urine from males with varying relatedness. It was found that KM male littermates shared similar volatile compositions in their urine. Our results suggest that male kinship reduces the Bruce effect in female KM mice, and provide additional evidence for mate choice being partly mediated by the Bruce effect in KM mice.

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