March 11, 2014

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“Male effect” pheromone is released from the male head skin and stimulates reproductive system in female goats. © Yukari Takeuchi.

A pheromone is a substance released by one individual that, on reception by another individual of the same species, induces a specific behavior or physiological change. Pheromones are an important form of communication between animals of the same species through the olfactory system. In mammals, several types of pheromone that regulate behavior (releaser pheromones) have been identified and their mechanisms of action are starting to be understood. On the other hand, pheromones that regulate physiology (primer pheromones) have yet to be identified conclusively, and their mechanism of action is almost completely unknown.

A research team led by Professor Yuji Mori and Associate Professor Yukari Takeuchi in the Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Tokyo identified a volatile molecule, 4-ethyloctanal, as a “male effect” pheromone that activates the central regulator of reproduction in female goats.

This is the first report of identification of a primer pheromone in mammals with clear neurophysiological evidence of its action promoting activity in the central regulator of reproduction. This finding will help in the development of future means of controlling livestock breeding using pheromones.

Paper Information

Ken Murata, Shigeyuki Tamogami, Masamichi Itou, Yasutaka Ohkubo, Yoshihiro Wakabayashi, Hidenori Watanabe, Hiroaki Okamura, Yukari Takeuchi, and Yuji Mori, “Identification of an Olfactory Signal Molecule that Activates the Central Regulator of Reproduction in Goats,” Current Biology, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2014.01.073.