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Int Rev Cytol. 2006;248:209-59.

Vomeronasal versus olfactory epithelium: is there a cellular basis for human vomeronasal perception?

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Department of Anatomy, University of Technology Dresden, Dresden, Germany.


The vomeronasal organ (VNO) constitutes an accessory olfactory organ that receives chemical stimuli, pheromones, which elicit behavioral, reproductive, or neuroendocrine responses among individuals of the same species. In many macrosmatic animals, the morphological substrate constitutes a separate organ system consisting of a vomeronasal duct (ductus vomeronasalis, VND), equipped with chemosensory cells, and a vomeronasal nerve (nervus vomeronasalis, VNN) conducting information into the accessory olfactory bulb (AOB) in the central nervous system (CNS). Recent data require that the long-accepted dual functionality of a main olfactory system and the VNO be reexamined, since all species without a VNO are nevertheless sexually active, and species possessing a VNO also can sense other than "vomeronasal" stimuli via the vomeronasal epithelium (VNE). The human case constitutes a borderline situation, as its embryonic VNO anlage exerts a developmental track common to most macrosmatics, but later typical structures such as the VNN, AOB, and probably most of the chemoreceptor cells within the still existent VND are lost. This review also presents recent information on the VND including immunohistochemical expression of neuronal markers, intermediate filaments, lectins, integrins, caveolin, CD44, and aquaporins. Further, we will address the issue of human pheromone candidates.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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