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Nat Commun. 2016 Jun 21;7:11936. doi: 10.1038/ncomms11936.

Faecal bile acids are natural ligands of the mouse accessory olfactory system.

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Department of Neuroscience, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75390, USA.
Neuroscience Graduate Program, The University of Texas, Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75390, USA.
Department of Chemistry, The University of Texas, 120 Inner Campus Drive, Austin, Texas 78712, USA.


The accessory olfactory system (AOS) guides behaviours that are important for survival and reproduction, but understanding of AOS function is limited by a lack of identified natural ligands. Here we report that mouse faeces are a robust source of AOS chemosignals and identify bile acids as a class of natural AOS ligands. Single-unit electrophysiological recordings from accessory olfactory bulb neurons in ex vivo preparations show that AOS neurons are strongly and selectively activated by peripheral stimulation with mouse faecal extracts. Faecal extracts contain several unconjugated bile acids that cause concentration-dependent neuronal activity in the AOS. Many AOS neurons respond selectively to bile acids that are variably excreted in male and female mouse faeces, and others respond to bile acids absent in mouse faeces. These results identify faeces as a natural source of AOS information, and suggest that bile acids may be mammalian pheromones and kairomones.

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