Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Pheromones and social status: Machos smell better

08.03.2019

Male house mice are territorial and scent-mark their territories with urine – and dominant, territorial males have much greater reproductive success than other males. A study conducted by researchers from Vetmeduni Vienna and published in Scientific Reports now shows that female mice display preferential olfactory attraction to the scent of dominant males, and that dominant males have higher pheromone production than subordinates.

Male house mice produce several pheromones, which are volatile and non-volatile chemical signals that have potent effects on the reproductive physiology and behavior of females.


Mice

© K. Thonhauser/Vetmeduni Vienna

A recent study conducted by researchers from Vetmeduni Vienna now shows that female house mice are attracted to the scent of dominant males, and that these males produce higher levels of certain pheromones compared to subordinates.

The scent of male dominance is sexy

It has long been known that male house mice mark their territories with urine, which contains a variety of pheromones. The research team led by Dustin Penn from Vetmeduni Vienna now discovered that male mice more than double the excretion of major urinary proteins (MUPs) after they acquire a territory and become socially dominant.

MUPs bind and stabilize the release of volatile pheromones, and some MUPs exhibit pheromonal properties themselves. As Penn explains: “We also conducted olfactory tests and found that sexually receptive female mice were more attracted by the scent of dominant than subordinate males, whereas non-receptive females did not show this olfactory preference.”

The chemical basis of dominance

The researchers conducted additional analyses to determine which compounds influence female attraction. They found that dominant males differentially upregulated the excretion of particular MUPs, including the pheromone MUP20 (darcin), and a volatile pheromone that influences female reproductive physiology and behaviour.

“Our findings show that once male house mice become territorial and socially dominant, they upregulate the amount and types of excreted MUPs, which increases the intensities of volatiles and the attractiveness of their urinary scent to sexually receptive females,” says Penn.

Pioneering study on pheromone production in mammals

The present study is the first to demonstrate that dominant, territorial males upregulate their pheromone production. “This finding is a fascinating example of how changes in social behaviour can affect gene expression. The present results are of enormous interest for behavioural biologists, especially with regard to chemosensory communication,” says Penn.

What MUPs are and what they do

Male house mice, like many animals, produce volatile pheromones that influence the reproductive physiology and behaviour of females. These pheromones are transported to the urine by so-called major urinary proteins (MUPs) encoded by 21 MUP genes. MUP genes are produced mainly in the liver and excreted in urine.

The researchers were not surprised that male mice produce such a great amount of protein in their urine, and much more than females. MUPs transport not only pheromones in the urine, they also stabilize their release from scent marks. Without this mechanism, the pheromones in scent-marks would quickly disappear. One of the functions of the MUPs is to attract females – especially MUP20, also known as darcin, named after Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen’s romantic novel Pride and Prejudice.

As female mice prefer to mate with socially dominant males, the research team assumed that males regulate the amount of MUPs that they produce in order to advertise their social status and attract females. The present study confirms this hypothesis. Humans actually do not excrete MUPs, as the only MUP gene in the human genome is 'dead', i.e., it is a non-functional pseudogene.

Why are females attracted to the scent of dominant males?

Future studies are now needed to examine the exact mechanisms through which dominant male mice regulate these pheromones and how they influence mating success. Since social status of male house mice is influenced by phenotypic and genetic quality (e.g., inbreeding), these findings suggest that MUP excretion may provide a reliable indicator of the quality of potential mates.

About the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna
The University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna in Austria is one of the leading academic and research institutions in the field of Veterinary Sciences in Europe. About 1,300 employees and 2,300 students work on the campus in the north of Vienna which also houses five university clinics and various research sites. Outside of Vienna the university operates Teaching and Research Farms. The Vetmeduni Vienna plays in the global top league: in 2018, it occupies the excellent place 6 in the world-wide Shanghai University veterinary in the subject "Veterinary Science". http://www.vetmeduni.ac.at

Released by:
Georg Mair
Science Communication / Corporate Communications
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna)
T +43 1 25077-1165
E georg.mair@vetmeduni.ac.at

Wissenschaftliche Ansprechpartner:

Dustin Penn
Konrad-Lorenz-Institute of Ethology
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna)
T +43 1 25077-7323
E dustin.penn@vetmeduni.ac.at

Originalpublikation:

The article “Regulation of volatile and nonvolatile pheromone attractants depends upon male social status” by M. Thoß, K. C. Luzynski, V. M. Enk, E. Razzazi-Fazeli, J. Kwak, I. Ortner and D. J. Penn was published in Scientific Reports.
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-36887-y

Weitere Informationen:

https://www.vetmeduni.ac.at/en/infoservice/press-releases/press-releases-2019/ph...

Mag. Georg Mair | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Further reports about: Veterinary Medicine Vetmeduni female mice pheromones social status

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht To proliferate or not to proliferate
21.03.2019 | Max-Planck-Institut für molekulare Zellbiologie und Genetik

nachricht Discovery of a Primordial Metabolism in Microbes
21.03.2019 | Leibniz-Institut DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Magnetic micro-boats

Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.

The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...

Im Focus: Self-healing coating made of corn starch makes small scratches disappear through heat

Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.

Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

Im Focus: Revealing the secret of the vacuum for the first time

New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum

For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

To proliferate or not to proliferate

21.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Magnetic micro-boats

21.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Motorless pumps and self-regulating valves made from ultrathin film

21.03.2019 | HANNOVER MESSE

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>