We investigated the regulation of chemical signals of house mice living in seminatural social conditions. We found that male mice more than doubled the excretion of major urinary proteins (MUPs) after they acquired a territory and become socially dominant. MUPs bind and stabilize the release of volatile pheromone ligands, and some MUPs exhibit pheromonal properties themselves. We conducted olfactory assays and found that female mice were more attracted to the scent of dominant than subordinate males when they were in estrus. Yet, when male status was controlled, females were not attracted to urine with high MUP concentration, despite being comparable to levels of dominant males. To determine which compounds influence female attraction, we conducted additional analyses and found that dominant males differentially upregulated the excretion of particular MUPs, including the pheromone MUP20 (darcin), and a volatile pheromone that influences female reproductive physiology and behavior. Our findings show that once male house mice become territorial and socially dominant, they upregulate the amount and types of excreted MUPs, which increases the intensities of volatiles and the attractiveness of their urinary scent to sexually receptive females.
Animal Communication Animals Female Male Mice Pheromonesmetabolism Reproductionphysiology Social Behavior Volatile Organic Compoundsmetabolism