Dominant males' pheromones stimulate brains of females

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Male pheromone–stimulated neurogenesis in the adult female brain: possible role in mating behavior

alpha male
[This could help explain why women choose "Don Juans" who are otherwise dismal as mates.]

The regulation of female reproductive behaviors may involve memories of male pheromone signatures, formed in part by neural circuitry involving the olfactory bulb and hippocampus.

These neural structures are the principal sites of adult neurogenesis; however, previous studies point to their independent regulation by sensory and physiological stimuli. Here we report that the pheromones of dominant (but not subordinate) males stimulate neuronal production in both the olfactory bulb and hippocampus of female mice, which are independently mediated by prolactin and luteinizing hormone, respectively. Neurogenesis induced by dominant-male pheromones correlates with a female preference for dominant males over subordinate males, whereas blocking neurogenesis with the mitotic inhibitor cytosine arabinoside eliminated this preference.

These results suggest that male pheromones are involved in regulating neurogenesis in both the olfactory bulb and hippocampus, which may be important for female reproductive success.


Gloria K Mak1, Emeka K Enwere1, 4, Christopher Gregg1, 4, Tomi Pakarainen2, Matti Poutanen2, Ilpo Huhtaniemi3 & Samuel Weiss1

1 Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Department of Cell Biology & Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta T2N 4N1, Canada.

2 Department of Physiology, Institute of Biomedicine, University of Turku, Kiinamyllynkatu 10, FIN-20520 Turku, Finland.

3 Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology, Imperial College London, London W12 ONN, UK.

4 Current address: Apoptosis Research Centre, Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute II, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 8L1, Canada (E.K.E.); Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA (C.G.).
Correspondence should be addressed to Samuel Weiss