The smell of fear: innate threat of 2,5-dihydro-2,4,5-trimethylthiazoline, a single molecule component of a predator odor

Front Neurosci. 2015 Aug 25;9:292. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2015.00292. eCollection 2015.


In the last several years, the importance of understanding what innate threat and fear is, in addition to learning of threat and fear, has become evident. Odors from predators are ecologically relevant stimuli used by prey animals as warnings for the presence of danger. Of importance, these odors are not necessarily noxious or painful, but they have innate threat-like properties. This review summarizes the progress made on the behavioral and neuroanatomical fundamentals of innate fear of the predator odor, 2,5-dihydro-2,4,5-trimethylthiazoline (TMT), a component of fox feces. TMT is one of several single molecule components of predator odors that have been isolated in the last several years. Isolation of these single molecules has allowed for rapid advances in delineating the behavioral constraints and selective neuroanatomical pathways of predator odor induced fear. In naïve mice and rats, TMT induces a number of fear and defensive behaviors, including robust freezing, indicating it is an innate threat stimulus. However, there are a number of behavioral constraints that we do not yet understand. Similarly, while some of the early olfactory sensory pathways for TMT-induced fear are being delineated, the pathways from olfactory systems to emotional and motor output regions are less well understood. This review will focus on what we know and what we still need to learn about the behavior and neuroanatomy of TMT-induced fear.

Keywords: 2,5-dihydro-2,4,5-trimethylthiazoline; TMT; fear; odor; olfaction; predator.

Publication types

  • Review