Mai Tsunoda, Kazunari Miyamichi, Ryo Eguchi, Yasuo Sakuma, Yoshihiro Yoshihara, Takefumi Kikusui, Masayoshi Kuwahara, and Kazushige Touhara*


Rodents use the vomeronasal olfactory system to acquire both inter- and intra-specific information from the external environment and take appropriate actions. For example, urinary proteins from predator species elicit avoidance in mice, while those from male mice attract female mice. In addition to urinary proteins, recent studies have highlighted the importance of lacrimal proteins for intra-specific communications in mice. However, whether the tear fluid of other species also mediates social signals remains unknown. Here, we show that a lacrimal protein in rats (predators of mice), called cystatin-related protein 1 (ratCRP1), activates the vomeronasal system of mice. This protein is specifically produced by adult male rats in a steroid hormone-dependent manner, activates the vomeronasal system of female rats, and enhances stopping behavior. When detected by mice, ratCRP1 activates the medial hypothalamic defensive circuit, resulting in decreased locomotion coupled with lowered body temperature and heart rate. Notably, ratCRP1 is recognized by multiple murine type 2 vomeronasal receptors, including Vmn2r28. CRISPR/Cas9-mediated deletion of vmn2r28 impaired both ratCRP1-induced neural activation of the hypothalamic center and decrease of locomotor activity in mice. Taken together, these data reveal the neural and molecular basis by which a tear fluid compound in rats affects the behavior of mice. Furthermore, our study reveals a case in which a single compound that mediates an intra-specific signal in a predator species also functions as an inter-specific signal in the prey species.

Paper Information

: Current Biology
: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.02.060