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Scientific article
English

The Vomeronasal System Mediates Sick Conspecific Avoidance

Published inCurrent biology, vol. 25, no. 2, p. 251-255
Publication date2015
Abstract

Although sociability offers many advantages, a major drawback is the increased risk of exposure to contagious pathogens, like parasites, viruses, or bacteria [1]. Social species have evolved various behavioral strategies reducing the probability of pathogen exposure [2]. In rodents, sick conspecific avoidance can be induced by olfactory cues emitted by parasitized or infected conspecifics [3–6]. The neural circuits involved in this behavior remain largely unknown. We observed that olfactory cues present in bodily products of mice in an acute inflammatory state or infected with a viral pathogen are aversive to conspecifics. We found that these chemical signals trigger neural activity in the vomeronasal system, an olfactory subsystem controlling various innate behaviors [7]. Supporting the functional relevance of these observations, we show that preference toward healthy individuals is abolished in mice with impaired vomeronasal function. These findings reveal a novel function played by the vomeronasal system.

Funding
  • Swiss National Science Foundation - Formyl peptide receptor-like receptors: an olfactory tool to identify pathogens?
  • Swiss National Science Foundation - 310030E_135910/1 and 31003A_149753 to I.R.; CR33I13_143723 to I.R. and A.C.; 31003A_153410 to A.C.
Citation (ISO format)
BOILLAT, Madlaina et al. The Vomeronasal System Mediates Sick Conspecific Avoidance. In: Current biology, 2015, vol. 25, n° 2, p. 251–255. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.11.061
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Article (Published version)
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ISSN of the journal0960-9822
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