Catherine Dulac, Ph.D.
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
March 22, 2004
Molecular Architecture of Pheromone Sensing in Mammals
The neuronal processing of pheromone signals within distinctive brain structures leads to marked changes in animal behavior and endocrine status. The highly reproducible and species-specific character of the response to pheromones offers a unique opportunity to uncover the neural basis of genetically pre-programmed behaviors.
Basic mechanisms of pheromone detection have been identified in a variety of animal species. We review recent investigations into molecular and neuronal sensory processing in the mouse, which have revealed a sensory strategy that is strikingly different from that of other chemosensory modalities such as taste and olfaction. These studies have provided novel insights into the sensory coding of pheromone signals leading to gender identification and aggressive behavior, and into the developmental mechanisms leading to the emergence of distinct olfactory pathways.