Send to

Choose Destination
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Jan 20;112(3):E311-20. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1416723112. Epub 2015 Jan 6.

Genetic dissection of pheromone processing reveals main olfactory system-mediated social behaviors in mice.

Author information

Department of Functional Neuroscience, Osaka Bioscience Institute, Osaka 565-0874, Japan;
Companion-Animal Research, School of Veterinary Medicine, Azabu University, Kanagawa 229-8501, Japan;
Research Institute for Microbial Diseases, Osaka University, Osaka 565-0871, Japan; Department of Cell Science, Institutes for Biomedical Sciences, School of Medicine, Fukushima Medical University, Fukushima 960-1295, Japan;
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Waseda University, Tokyo 169-8555, Japan; and.
Department of Functional Neuroscience, Osaka Bioscience Institute, Osaka 565-0874, Japan;
Department of Functional Neuroscience, Osaka Bioscience Institute, Osaka 565-0874, Japan; Precursory Research for Embryonic Science and Technology, Japan Science and Technology Agency, Saitama 332-0012, Japan


Most mammals have two major olfactory subsystems: the main olfactory system (MOS) and vomeronasal system (VNS). It is now widely accepted that the range of pheromones that control social behaviors are processed by both the VNS and the MOS. However, the functional contributions of each subsystem in social behavior remain unclear. To genetically dissociate the MOS and VNS functions, we established two conditional knockout mouse lines that led to either loss-of-function in the entire MOS or in the dorsal MOS. Mice with whole-MOS loss-of-function displayed severe defects in active sniffing and poor survival through the neonatal period. In contrast, when loss-of-function was confined to the dorsal MOB, sniffing behavior, pheromone recognition, and VNS activity were maintained. However, defects in a wide spectrum of social behaviors were observed: attraction to female urine and the accompanying ultrasonic vocalizations, chemoinvestigatory preference, aggression, maternal behaviors, and risk-assessment behaviors in response to an alarm pheromone. Functional dissociation of pheromone detection and pheromonal induction of behaviors showed the anterior olfactory nucleus (AON)-regulated social behaviors downstream from the MOS. Lesion analysis and neural activation mapping showed pheromonal activation in multiple amygdaloid and hypothalamic nuclei, important regions for the expression of social behavior, was dependent on MOS and AON functions. Identification of the MOS-AON-mediated pheromone pathway may provide insights into pheromone signaling in animals that do not possess a functional VNS, including humans.


main olfactory system; pheromone processing; social behavior; vomeronasal system

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center