Impact Factor


Front. Neuroanat., 05 June 2012 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnana.2012.00020

Contribution of pheromones processed by the main olfactory system to mate recognition in female mammals

  • Department of Biology, Boston University, Boston, MA, USA

Until recently it was widely believed that the ability of female mammals (with the likely exception of women) to identify and seek out a male breeding partner relied on the detection of non-volatile male pheromones by the female's vomeronasal organ (VNO) and their subsequent processing by a neural circuit that includes the accessory olfactory bulb (AOB), vomeronasal amygdala, and hypothalamus. Emperical data are reviewed in this paper that demonstrate the detection of volatile pheromones by the main olfactory epithelium (MOE) of female mice which, in turn, leads to the activation of a population of glomeruli and abutting mitral cells in the main olfactory bulb (MOB). Anatomical results along with functional neuroanatomical data demonstrate that some of these MOB mitral cells project to the vomeronasal amygdala. These particular MOB mitral cells were selectively activated (i.e., expressed Fos protein) by exposure to male as opposed to female urinary volatiles. A similar selectivity to opposite sex urinary volatiles was also seen in mitral cells of the AOB of female mice. Behavioral data from female mouse, ferret, and human are reviewed that implicate the main olfactory system, in some cases interacting with the accessory olfactory system, in mate recognition.

Keywords: mouse, ferret, human, vomeronasal organ, hypothalamus

Citation: Baum MJ (2012) Contribution of pheromones processed by the main olfactory system to mate recognition in female mammals. Front. Neuroanat. 6:20. doi: 10.3389/fnana.2012.00020

Received: 17 April 2012; Accepted: 19 May 2012;
Published online: 05 June 2012.

Edited by:

Jorge A. Larriva-Sahd, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico

Reviewed by:

Jianzheng Zheng, University of New Mexico, USA
Raúl G. Paredes, National University of Mexico, Mexico

Copyright: © 2012 Baum. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial License, which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited.

*Correspondence: Michael J. Baum, Department of Biology, Boston University, 5 Cummington St., Boston, MA 02215, USA. e-mail: baum@bu.edu