Sexually dimorphic activation of the accessory, but not the main, olfactory bulb in mice by urinary volatiles

Eur J Neurosci. 2007 Jul;26(2):463-75. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2007.05651.x. Epub 2007 Jul 10.


Previous research suggests that volatile body odourants detected by the main olfactory epithelium (MOE) are processed mainly by the main olfactory bulb (MOB) whereas nonvolatile body odourants detected by the vomeronasal organ (VNO) are processed via the accessory olfactory bulb (AOB). We asked whether urinary volatiles from males and females differentially activate the AOB in addition to the MOB in gonadectomized mice of either sex. Exposure to urinary volatiles from opposite-sex but not same-sex conspecifics augmented the number of Fos-immunoreactive mitral and granule cells in the AOB. Volatile urinary odours from male as well as female mice also stimulated Fos expression in distinct clusters of MOB glomeruli in both sexes. Intranasal administration of ZnSO(4), intended to disrupt MOE function, eliminated the ability of volatile urinary odours to stimulate Fos in both the MOB and AOB. In ovariectomized, ZnSO(4)-treated females a significant, though attenuated, AOB Fos response occurred after direct nasal exposure to male urine plus soiled bedding, suggesting that VNO signaling remained partially functional in these mice. Future studies will determine whether MOE or VNO signaling, or both types of input, drive the sexually dimorphic response of the AOB to volatile opposite-sex odours and whether this AOB response contributes to reproductive success.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Estradiol / analogs & derivatives
  • Estradiol / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Genes, fos / genetics
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Odorants*
  • Olfactory Bulb / drug effects
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology*
  • Orchiectomy
  • Ovariectomy
  • Prosencephalon / physiology
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Urine / chemistry*
  • Vomeronasal Organ / physiology
  • Zinc Sulfate / pharmacology


  • estradiol 3-benzoate
  • Estradiol
  • Zinc Sulfate