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Science 299 (5610): 1196-1201

Copyright © 2003 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Encoding Pheromonal Signals in the Accessory Olfactory Bulb of Behaving Mice

Minmin Luo,1* Michale S. Fee,2 Lawrence C. Katz1

Many mammalian species rely on pheromones--semiochemicals produced by other members of the same species--to communicate social status and reproductive readiness. To assess how the central nervous system integrates the complex repertoire of pheromones, we recorded from single neurons in the accessory olfactory bulb, a nucleus that processes pheromonal signals, of male mice engaged in natural behaviors. Neuronal firing was robustly modulated by physical contact with male and female conspecifics, with individual neurons activated selectively by specific combinations of the sex and strain of conspecifics. We infer that mammals encode social and reproductive information by integrating vomeronasal sensory activity specific to sex and genetic makeup.

1 Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Department of Neurobiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.
2 Biological Computation Research Department, Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies, Murray Hill, NJ 07974, USA.
*   To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: luo{at}

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