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Biol Reprod. 1998 Dec;59(6):1454-63.

Sex difference and testosterone modulation of pheromone-induced NeuronalFos in the Ferret's main olfactory bulb and hypothalamus.

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a Department of Biology, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


A carnivore, the ferret possesses a vomeronasal organ--accessory olfactory bulb (VNO-AOB) projection to the hypothalamus; however, little is known about its function. Pheromones in soiled bedding from estrous female ferrets or an artificial peppermint odor significantly augmented nuclear Fos protein immunoreactivity (Fos-IR), a marker of neural activation, in several main olfactory bulb (MOB) sites but not in the AOB of gonadectomized male and females. Testosterone propionate (TP) significantly augmented the MOB's neuronal Fos responses to estrous females' pheromones, but not to peppermint. Estrous odors, but not peppermint, also augmented neuronal Fos-IR in the medial preoptic area (mPOA) of female, but not male, subjects. Pheromones in soiled bedding from breeding male ferrets significantly augmented neuronal Fos-IR in the MOB and in the medial amygdala of gonadectomized, TP-treated male and female subjects. Again, male pheromones failed to influence neuronal Fos-IR in the AOB of either sex, and only females showed significant increases in neuronal Fos-IR in the lateral aspect of the ventromedial nucleus and mPOA. These results point to an essential role among higher mammals of the main olfactory epithelium-MOB projection to the hypothalamus in detecting and processing pheromones. Gonadectomized ferrets showed significant increases in sniffing behavior when placed on either female or male bedding. This occurred regardless of whether they had received TP or oil vehicle, suggesting that testosterone's facilitation of neuronal Fos responses to estrous females' odors in the MOB of both sexes cannot be attributed to increased scent gathering. Androgen receptor-IR was present in the MOB granule cell layer of male and female ferrets, raising the possibility that testosterone acts directly on these cells to augment their responsiveness to pheromones.

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