A functional circuit underlying male sexual behaviour in the female mouse brain

Nature. 2007 Aug 30;448(7157):1009-14. doi: 10.1038/nature06089. Epub 2007 Aug 5.


In mice, pheromone detection is mediated by the vomeronasal organ and the main olfactory epithelium. Male mice that are deficient for Trpc2, an ion channel specifically expressed in VNO neurons and essential for VNO sensory transduction, are impaired in sex discrimination and male-male aggression. We report here that Trpc2-/- female mice show a reduction in female-specific behaviour, including maternal aggression and lactating behaviour. Strikingly, mutant females display unique characteristics of male sexual and courtship behaviours such as mounting, pelvic thrust, solicitation, anogenital olfactory investigation, and emission of complex ultrasonic vocalizations towards male and female conspecific mice. The same behavioural phenotype is observed after VNO surgical removal in adult animals, and is not accompanied by disruption of the oestrous cycle and sex hormone levels. These findings suggest that VNO-mediated pheromone inputs act in wild-type females to repress male behaviour and activate female behaviours. Moreover, they imply that functional neuronal circuits underlying male-specific behaviours exist in the normal female mouse brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / physiology
  • Animal Communication
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Courtship
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Lactation / physiology
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior / physiology
  • Mice
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Pheromones / metabolism
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Smell / physiology
  • Social Dominance
  • TRPC Cation Channels / deficiency
  • TRPC Cation Channels / genetics
  • TRPC Cation Channels / metabolism*
  • Testosterone / metabolism
  • Ultrasonics
  • Vomeronasal Organ / cytology
  • Vomeronasal Organ / physiology
  • Vomeronasal Organ / surgery


  • Pheromones
  • TRPC Cation Channels
  • Trpc2 protein, mouse
  • Testosterone