Central forebrain Fos responses to familiar male odours are attenuated in recently mated female mice


: Dr Michael J. Baum, as above.
E-mail: baum@bio.bu.edu


Exposure of recently mated female mice to the urinary odours of an unfamiliar male blocks pregnancy (the Bruce effect). The absence of a pregnancy block in response to the stud male's familiar odours depends on an olfactory memory that is formed in the accessory olfactory bulb (AOB) in response to vomeronasal organ (VNO) inputs during mating. Sexually naive Balb/c female mice in pro-oestrus/oestrus were either placed onto soiled bedding (‘bedding-only’ females) from, or allowed to mate with, a Balb/c male (‘recently mated’ females). After 42 h, females were placed for 90 min onto clean bedding (controls) or onto soiled bedding from either a C57BL/6 male (unfamiliar bedding) or a Balb/c male (familiar bedding). Significant increases in Fos-immunoreactivity (Fos-IR, a marker of neuronal activation) occurred in the medial amygdala and the medial preoptic area (MPA) of ‘bedding only’ females exposed to either unfamiliar or familiar bedding and in ‘recently mated’ females exposed to unfamiliar bedding but not to familiar bedding. This suggests that a mating-induced memory prevents the later activation by the familiar stud male's odours of neurons in forebrain regions that receive inputs from the VNO–AOB. ‘Bedding-only’ females later exposed to either familiar or unfamiliar bedding had increased Fos-IR in the Gαo protein-expressing basal zone of the VNO whereas no such effect occurred in ‘recently mated’ females. Familiar, as well as unfamiliar, male odours augmented Fos-IR in significantly more rostral than caudal AOB granule cells in all groups, with the effect being strongest in ‘recently mated’ females exposed to familiar male bedding. This outcome is consistent with the absence of odour-induced Fos-IR in forebrain regions of these females and, presumably, the absence of a pregnancy block.