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Science 306 (5698): 1033-1037

Copyright © 2004 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

MHC Class I Peptides as Chemosensory Signals in the Vomeronasal Organ

Trese Leinders-Zufall,1 Peter Brennan,2 Patricia Widmayer,3 Prashanth Chandramani S.,3 Andrea Maul-Pavicic,4 Martina Jäger,4 Xiao-Hong Li,1 Heinz Breer,3 Frank Zufall,1* Thomas Boehm4*

Abstract: The mammalian vomeronasal organ detects social information about gender, status, and individuality. The molecular cues carrying this information remain largely unknown. Here, we show that small peptides that serve as ligands for major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules function also as sensory stimuli for a subset of vomeronasal sensory neurons located in the basal Gao- and V2R receptor–expressing zone of the vomeronasal epithelium. In behaving mice, the same peptides function as individuality signals underlying mate recognition in the context of pregnancy block. MHC peptides constitute a previously unknown family of chemosensory stimuli by which MHC genotypic diversity can influence social behavior.

1 Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.
2 Sub-Department of Animal Behaviour, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB3 8AA, UK.
3 Institut für Physiologie, Universität Hohenheim, D-70593 Stuttgart, Germany.
4 Department of Developmental Immunology, Max-Planck Institute of Immunobiology, D-79108 Freiburg, Germany.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: boehm{at} (T.B.); fzufa001{at} (F.Z.)

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