Mating increases neuronal tyrosine hydroxylase expression and selectively gates transmission of male chemosensory information in female mice

PLoS One. 2013 Jul 25;8(7):e69943. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069943. Print 2013.


Exposure to chemosensory signals from unfamiliar males can terminate pregnancy in recently mated female mice. The number of tyrosine hydroxylase-positive neurons in the main olfactory bulb has been found to increase following mating and has been implicated in preventing male-induced pregnancy block during the post-implantation period. In contrast, pre-implantation pregnancy block is mediated by the vomeronasal system, and is thought to be prevented by selective inhibition of the mate's pregnancy blocking chemosignals, at the level of the accessory olfactory bulb. The objectives of this study were firstly to identify the level of the vomeronasal pathway at which selective inhibition of the mate's pregnancy blocking chemosignals occurs. Secondly, to determine whether a post-mating increase in tyrosine hydroxylase-positive neurons is observed in the vomeronasal system, which could play a role in preventing pre-implantation pregnancy block. Immunohistochemical staining revealed that mating induced an increase in tyrosine-hydroxylase positive neurons in the arcuate hypothalamus of BALB/c females, and suppressed c-Fos expression in these neurons in response to mating male chemosignals. This selective suppression of c-Fos response to mating male chemosignals was not apparent at earlier levels of the pregnancy-blocking neural pathway in the accessory olfactory bulb or corticomedial amygdala. Immunohistochemical staining revealed an increase in the number of tyrosine hydroxylase-positive neurons in the accessory olfactory bulb of BALB/c female mice following mating. However, increased dopamine-mediated inhibition in the accessory olfactory bulb is unlikely to account for the prevention of pregnancy block to the mating male, as tyrosine hydroxylase expression did not increase in females of the C57BL/6 strain, which show normal mate recognition. These findings reveal an association of mating with increased dopaminergic modulation in the pregnancy block pathway and support the hypothesis that mate recognition prevents pregnancy block by suppressing the activation of arcuate dopamine release.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / cytology
  • Amygdala / physiology
  • Animals
  • Arcuate Nucleus of Hypothalamus / cytology
  • Arcuate Nucleus of Hypothalamus / physiology*
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Embryo Implantation
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Olfactory Bulb / cytology
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology
  • Pheromones / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / metabolism
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / genetics
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism*
  • Vomeronasal Organ / cytology
  • Vomeronasal Organ / physiology


  • Pheromones
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Dopamine