Remembrance of T-Shirts Past

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Science  14 Mar 2003:
Vol. 299, Issue 5613, pp. 1629
DOI: 10.1126/science.299.5613.1629c

The mysterious linkage between male body odor and female mate preference may finally have a molecular rationale, based on results presented by Loconto et al. and Ishii et al. One of the well-known loci at which mammals display enormous diversity is the major histocompatibility (MHC) locus, which governs immune responses and transplantation tolerance (or rejection). The MHC class Ia molecules are membrane proteins that bind antigenic peptides and present them to T cells. Another diverse protein family, more recently discovered, is that of the vomeronasal organ (VNO) receptors V1R and V2R, each of which is a family of 100 to 200 membrane proteins that have been shown in mice to be involved in detecting pheromones. Both groups document the coexpression of MHC molecules (of the class Ib type) and V2Rs in the basal layer of the VNO epithelium, with some neurons containing just one member of each family and with others containing multiple representatives. Although the logic of these expression patterns is not yet apparent, these data nicely complement earlier work describing the function of MHC class I molecules in neuronal development and plasticity. Loconto et al. also show that another habitué of the immune system, β2-microglobulin, is coexpressed in a complex with V2Rs and class Ib molecules, which is suggestive of a role in the establishment or maintenance of this combinatorial sensory code. — GJC

Cell112, 607 (2003); Curr. Biol.13, 394 (2003).

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