Scent marking behavior in male C57BL/6J mice: Sexual and developmental determination

Pacific Bioscience Research Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 1993 East-West Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA.
Behavioural Brain Research (Impact Factor: 3.03). 09/2007; 182(1):73-9. DOI: 10.1016/j.bbr.2007.05.007
Source: PubMed


The present study investigated urinary scent marking behavior in male C57BL/6J (C57) mice as olfactory social signaling. In Experiment 1, when compared scent marking toward adult males, C57 males showed substantial scent marking toward CD-1 males and even toward the odor alone of CD-1 males, but not toward C57 males. Experiment 2 explored scent marking in C57 males of different ages to males and females, and juveniles and adults of the same strain. C57 males deposited more marks than control conditions only toward an adult C57 female when tested at 100 days of age, but not at 60 days of age. Development of urine marking behavior was investigated in C57 males at the ages of 30, 60, 90, and 120 days in Experiment 3. When tested alone (control) or confronted with a C57 male, C57 males showed diminished scent marks throughout development. Compared to controls, marking toward a CD-1 male increased after the age of 60 days, while marks toward an adult female showed significant increases after the age of 90 days. This difference in scent marking depending on the sex of the stimulus animal is likely to be associated with development of sexual behavior, in which males need to set up territories against other males prior to advertising to females. Although highly inbred strains have similar odor components, C57 males are able to detect and deposit urine marks after puberty as social communication depending on age, sex, and genetic differences in the opponents.

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Available from: Hiroyuki Arakawa
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    • "Behaviorally, these signals are comprised of physical contact in the form of social investigation, scent marking, and both audible and ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs). Mice deposit pheromone-containing urinary traces in a context-specific manner to mark territories, attract potential mates, and communicate information about health and dominance status [22], [23], [24], [25]. A reduction in scent marking has been observed in several mouse strains characterized by low sociability, and quantification of scent marking is now employed as an assay of the communication deficits typically seen in autism models [26], [27], [28], [29]. "
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    • "One assumption in the social chamber and social partition test is that the animal can recognize a novel animal. Mice rely heavily on olfaction to detect and differentiate other mice (Ferguson et al., 2000; Arakawa et al., 2007). It is increasingly becoming common to measure the animal’s ability to distinguish different novel odors, including social odors to determine whether the animal has anosmia. "
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    • "Many studies have subsequently found evidence that scent marking functions to intimidate rivals and attract females (Ralls 1971; Gosling 1982; Hurst 1990a; Gosling & Roberts 2001). For example, male house mice, Mus musculus, produce many small urinary scent marks and they increase the quantity of scent mark deposition in the presence of sexually mature females (Ralls 1971; Reynolds 1971; Maruniak et al. 1974; Arakawa et al. 2007) or female scent (Wolff & Powell 1984; Hurst 1989; Zala et al. 2004). Moreover, female mice are capable of assessing males' quality (Lenington 1983; Kavaliers & Colwell 1995; Penn et al. 1998) and compatibility (Yamazaki et al. 1976) from their scent. "
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