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The Vomeronasal System Mediates Sick Conspecific Avoidance

Boillat, Madlaina
Kan, Chenda
Published in Current Biology. 2015, vol. 25, no. 2, p. 251-255
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.
PMID: 25578906
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Research groups Groupe Carleton Alan (neurosciences fondamentales) (876)
Groupe Rodriguez
Swiss National Science Foundation: 310030E-135910
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.
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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 https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:45700

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Deposited on : 2015-01-21

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