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Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2010 Nov;235(11):1277-81. doi: 10.1258/ebm.2010.010112. Epub 2010 Oct 13.

In the nose of the beholder: are olfactory influences on human mate choice driven by variation in immune system genes or sex hormone levels?

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1UCL Anthropology, University College London, London, UK.


The human leukocyte antigen (HLA) is the most polymorphic region of the genome, coding for proteins that mediate human immune response. This polymorphism may be maintained by balancing selection and certain populations show deviations from expected gene frequencies. Supporting this hypothesis, studies into olfactory preferences have suggested that females prefer the scent of males with dissimilar HLA to their own. However, it has also been proposed that androstenones play a role in female mate choice, and as these molecules inhibit the immune system, this has implications for the theory of HLA-driven mate preference. This review will critically analyze the findings of studies investigating olfactory preference in humans, and their implications for these two contrasting theories of mate choice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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