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Nature. 2010 Jul 1;466(7302):118-22. doi: 10.1038/nature09142.

The male mouse pheromone ESP1 enhances female sexual receptive behaviour through a specific vomeronasal receptor.

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  • 1Department of Applied Biological Chemistry, Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo 113-8657, Japan.


Various social behaviours in mice are regulated by chemical signals called pheromones that act through the vomeronasal system. Exocrine gland-secreting peptide 1 (ESP1) is a 7-kDa peptide that is released into male tear fluids and stimulates vomeronasal sensory neurons in female mice. Here, we describe the molecular and neural mechanisms that are involved in the decoding of ESP1 signals in the vomeronasal system, which leads to behavioural output in female mice. ESP1 is recognized by a specific vomeronasal receptor, V2Rp5, and the ligand-receptor interaction results in sex-specific signal transmission to the amygdaloid and hypothalamic nuclei via the accessory olfactory bulb. Consequently, ESP1 enhances female sexual receptive behaviour upon male mounting (lordosis), allowing successful copulation. In V2Rp5-deficient mice, ESP1 induces neither neural activation nor sexual behaviour. These findings show that ESP1 is a crucial male pheromone that regulates female reproductive behaviour through a specific receptor in the mouse vomeronasal system.

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