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Science 289 (5484): 1569-1572

Copyright © 2000 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Responses of Vomeronasal Neurons to Natural Stimuli

Timothy E. Holy,1* Catherine Dulac,12 Markus Meister1

The vomeronasal organ (VNO) of mammals plays an essential role in the detection of pheromones. We obtained simultaneous recordings of action potentials from large subsets of VNO neurons. These cells responded to components of urine by increasing their firing rate. This chemosensory activation required phospholipase C function. Unlike most other sensory neurons, VNO neurons did not adapt under prolonged stimulus exposure. The full time course of the VNO spiking response is captured by a simple quantitative model of ligand binding. Many individual VNO neurons were strongly selective for either male or female mouse urine, with the effective concentrations differing as much as a thousandfold. These results establish a framework for understanding sensory coding in the vomeronasal system.

1 Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
2 Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
*   To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: timholy{at}

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B. G. Leypold, C. R. Yu, T. Leinders-Zufall, M. M. Kim, F. Zufall, and R. Axel (2002)
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Loss of Sex Discrimination and Male-Male Aggression in Mice Deficient for TRP2.
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H. A. Halem, M. J. Baum, and J. A. Cherry (2001)
J. Neurosci. 21, 2474-2480
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Loss of Sex Discrimination and Male-Male Aggression in Mice Deficient for TRP2.
L. Stowers, T. E. Holy, M. Meister, C. Dulac, and G. Koentges (2002)
Science 295, 1493-1500
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Altered sexual and social behaviors in trp2 mutant mice.
B. G. Leypold, C. R. Yu, T. Leinders-Zufall, M. M. Kim, F. Zufall, and R. Axel (2002)
PNAS 99, 6376-6381
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »

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