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Horm Behav. 2004 Sep;46(3):231-40.

The nose knows who's who: chemosensory individuality and mate recognition in mice.

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Sub-Department of Animal Behaviour, University of Cambridge, Madingley, Cambridge CB3 8AA, UK.


Individual recognition is an important component of behaviors, such as mate choice and maternal bonding that are vital for reproductive success. This article highlights recent developments in our understanding of the chemosensory cues and the neural pathways involved in individuality discrimination in rodents. There appear to be several types of chemosensory signal of individuality that are influenced by the highly polymorphic families of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) proteins or major urinary proteins (MUPs). Both have the capability of binding small molecules and may influence the individual profile of these chemosignals in biological fluids such as urine, skin secretions, or saliva. Moreover, these proteins, or peptides associated with them, can be taken up into the vomeronasal organ (VNO) where they can potentially interact directly with the vomeronasal receptors. This is particularly interesting given the expression of major histocompatibility complex Ib proteins by the V2R class of vomeronasal receptor and the highly selective responses of accessory olfactory bulb (AOB) mitral cells to strain identity. These findings are consistent with the role of the vomeronasal system in mediating individual discrimination that allows mate recognition in the context of the pregnancy block effect. This is hypothesized to involve a selective increase in the inhibitory control of mitral cells in the accessory olfactory bulb at the first level of processing of the vomeronasal stimulus.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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