Pheromones Modify Behavior A male mouse listens and sniffs as an animal enters his territory. His sensory systems reveal that it is another mouse, but this is not enough to dictate an appropriate behavioral response. Is the intruder male? Should he fight to defend his territory? This behavior would be a mistake if the intruder were a receptive female. There is no hesitation in his response. Pheromone cues released from the other mouse ensure that social interactions including territorial aggression, sexual behaviors, onset of puberty and maternal responses are executed without error. Our lab utilizes a molecular genetic approach to identify the pheromones that initiate this process, the neurons that are stimulated and the range of the resulting behaviors.
Molecular Biology of Pheromone Neurons In the mouse, pheromone response is mediated through the vomeronasal system by neurons that are anatomically and molecularly distinct from the main olfactory system. These isolated neurons are an exceptional substrate for molecular and genetic manipulation. Differential screening of the neurons in the pheromone response circuit will provide information about their molecular capabilities and provide tools to identify their function.
Pheromone Identification What is the molecular code that indicates gender, age and social status? How is the information regulated as the animal matures and social hierarchy is established? Pheromone ligands that initiate complex social behavior are elusive. We are using a genomic approach to identify the molecules that encode the breadth of pheromone information.
Analysis of Complex Behavior Pheromones activate relatively simple neuronal circuitry that is sub cortical and ensures that pheromone initiated behaviors are reproducible and invariant. This neuronal organization provides a robust experimental model to identify the specific pathways that regulate universal complex behaviors such as mating, aggression, maternal, and dominance.
Logan, D.W., Maton, T.F., and Stowers, L. (2008) Species specificity in major urinary proteins by parallel evlolution. PLoS One, 3(9), e3280.
Chamero, P., Marton, T.F., Logan, D.W., Flanagan, K., Cruz, J., Saghatelian, A., Cravatt, B.F., and Stowers, L. (2007) Identification of protein pheromones that promote aggressive behavior. Nature 450:899-902.
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Loconto, J, Papes, F, Chang, E, Stowers, L, Jones, EP, Takada, T, Kumanovics, A, Fischer Lindahl, K, Dulac, C (2003) Functional Expression of Murine V2R Pheromone Receptors Involves Selective Association with the M10 and M1 Families of MHC Class Ib Molecules. Cell 112:607-618.
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