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Neuroscience. 1999;91(4):1549-56.

Activation of an anatomically distinct subpopulation of accessory olfactory bulb neurons by chemosensory stimulation.

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Department of Physiology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas 75235-9040, USA.


Chemosensory cues known as pheromones play a key role in rodent reproductive physiology and social interactions. Pheromone molecules are detected by receptor cells located in the vomeronasal organ and conveyed exclusively to the accessory olfactory bulb, and then to limbic and hypothalamic sites for integration with other factors modulating reproductive physiology. We report here that chemosensory cues from the female mouse selectively activate a subpopulation of cells located in the anterior part of the accessory olfactory bulb of the male mouse. Exposure of male mice to female-soiled bedding resulted in a massive induction of c-fos expression, which was primarily confined to neurons located in the anterior part of the accessory olfactory bulb and was eliminated by removal of the vomeronasal organ. Exposure of the male to soiled bedding from a different stain of male mice also elevated c-fos expression, but immunoreactive cells were more evenly distributed along the anterior-posterior axis of the accessory olfactory bulb. No treatment effects were observed in the main olfactory bulb. Previous studies have indicated that vomeronasal receptor neurons are divided into two populations based on location within the organ, site of termination in the accessory olfactory bulb, second messenger content and putative pheromone receptor expression. The present study suggests that the two populations of vomeronasal receptor neurons detect different chemosensory stimuli. Since male mouse- and female mouse-specific urinary substances modulate different aspects of male mouse behavior, the present results suggest that anatomically segregated populations of vomeronasal organ receptor cells modulate distinct behavioral patterns.

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