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Science 320 (5875): 535-538

Copyright © 2008 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Encoding Gender and Individual Information in the Mouse Vomeronasal Organ

Jie He,1 Limei Ma,1 SangSeong Kim,1 Junichi Nakai,2 C. Ron Yu1*

Abstract: The mammalian vomeronasal organ detects complex chemical signals that convey information about gender, strain, and the social and reproductive status of an individual. How these signals are encoded is poorly understood. We developed transgenic mice expressing the calcium indicator G-CaMP2 and analyzed population responses of vomeronasal neurons to urine from individual animals. A substantial portion of cells was activated by either male or female urine, but only a small population of cells responded exclusively to gender-specific cues shared across strains and individuals. Female cues activated more cells and were subject to more complex hormonal regulations than male cues. In contrast to gender, strain and individual information was encoded by the combinatorial activation of neurons such that urine from different individuals activated distinctive cell populations.

1 Stowers Institute for Medical Research, 1000 East 50th Street, Kansas City, MO 64110, USA.
2 Laboratory for Memory and Learning, RIKEN Brain Science Institute, 2-1 Hirosawa, Wakoshi, Saitama, 351-0198, Japan.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed: cry{at}

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