In vivo vomeronasal stimulation reveals sensory encoding of conspecific and allospecific cues by the mouse accessory olfactory bulb. Academic Article uri icon


  • The rodent vomeronasal system plays a critical role in mediating pheromone-evoked social and sexual behaviors. Recent studies of the anatomical and molecular architecture of the vomeronasal organ (VNO) and of its synaptic target, the accessory olfactory bulb (AOB), have suggested that unique features underlie vomeronasal sensory processing. However, the neuronal representation of pheromonal information leading to specific behavioral and endocrine responses has remained largely unexplored due to the experimental difficulty of precise stimulus delivery to the VNO. To determine the basic rules of information processing in the vomeronasal system, we developed a unique preparation that allows controlled and repeated stimulus delivery to the VNO and combined this approach with multisite recordings of neuronal activity in the AOB. We found that urine, a well-characterized pheromone source in mammals, as well as saliva, activates AOB neurons in a manner that reliably encodes the donor animal's sexual and genetic status. We also identified a significant fraction of AOB neurons that respond robustly and selectively to predator cues, suggesting an expanded role for the vomeronasal system in both conspecific and interspecific recognition. Further analysis reveals that mixed stimuli from distinct sources evoke synergistic responses in AOB neurons, thereby supporting the notion of integrative processing of chemosensory information.

publication date

  • March 16, 2010