Grueneberg ganglion cells mediate alarm pheromone detection in mice

Science. 2008 Aug 22;321(5892):1092-5. doi: 10.1126/science.1160770.


Alarm pheromones (APs) are widely used throughout the plant and animal kingdoms. Species such as fish, insects, and mammals signal danger to conspecifics by releasing volatile alarm molecules. Thus far, neither the chemicals, their bodily source, nor the sensory system involved in their detection have been isolated or identified in mammals. We found that APs are recognized by the Grueneberg ganglion (GG), a recently discovered olfactory subsystem. We showed with electron microscopy that GG neurons bear primary cilia, with cell bodies ensheathed by glial cells. APs evoked calcium responses in GG neurons in vitro and induced freezing behavior in vivo, which completely disappeared when the GG degenerated after axotomy. We conclude that mice detect APs through the activation of olfactory GG neurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Communication
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Axotomy
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cilia / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Ganglia, Sensory / physiology*
  • Ganglia, Sensory / ultrastructure
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Nasal Mucosa / cytology
  • Nasal Mucosa / innervation*
  • Neuroglia / ultrastructure
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / ultrastructure
  • Permeability
  • Pheromones / analysis*
  • Stress, Physiological


  • Pheromones
  • Calcium