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Hormone Controls Smell In Female Mice

Male pheromone blocks detection in nose when females not in estrus.

Female mice can't smell the odor of male mice when they're not inestrus, according to a new study by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute.

The odor signal from male pheromones is blocked in the nose and never reaches the brain, the study found. This upends a previous belief that the odor was perceived in the brain, but a mechanism there blocked it when the female is sexually inactive.

Researchers say the results will enable a better understanding of how pheromones work, possibly even in humans.

The study was published Thursday in the journal Cell. Lisa Stowers was the paper's senior author, Sandeepa Dey the first author.

Certain vomeronasal sensory neurons are blocked from detecting the male pheromones during diestrus, the study said. Moreover, this blocking is selective.

"VSN silencing occurs through the action of the female sex-steroid progesterone," the study stated. "Not all VSNs are targeted for silencing; those detecting cat ligands remain continuously active irrespective of the estrous state.

Stowers called the finding "shocking" in a TSRI press release. “The nose was making decisions and acting like an extension of the brain.”

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