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Physiol Behav. 2004 May;81(3):427-34.

Attraction to male pheromones and sexual behaviour show different regulatory mechanisms in female mice.

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Departament de Biologia Cellular, Facultat de Ciències Biològiques, Universitat de València, C. Dr. Moliner, 50, ES-46100 Burjassot, València, Spain.


In rodents, female sexual behaviour is under hormonal control. The attraction females show for male-derived nonvolatile chemicals (pheromones) can be regarded as the first step of this behaviour, but it is unknown whether this attraction is also modulated by sexual steroids. To test this possibility, ovariectomized adult female mice with no experience of chemical signals from adult males were randomly assigned to four groups that received oil (control), progesterone, estradiol (E) or estradiol+progesterone (E+P) injections, respectively. Females were then tested for their attraction to male-soiled bedding and, subsequently, for their proceptive behaviour when confronted to adult males. Females showed attraction to male-soiled bedding irrespective of the hormonal treatment, whereas only those females treated with E or E+P showed proceptive behaviour. Therefore, in contrast to proceptive and copulatory behaviour, the female attraction to male pheromones is independent of sexual steroids, thus indicating that those parts of the vomeronasal system involved in this attraction do not respond to steroids. In summary, sexual behaviour in female mice can be seen as a two-step process. First, females are attracted by male pheromones, a process which is independent of their hormonal status. After encountering the males, females show proceptive behaviour only in estrous, when fertilization is more likely. The attraction exerted by male sexual pheromones promotes female autostimulation that might ensure anticipatory endocrine changes leading to ovulation by the time of sexual intercourse.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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