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MHC Class I Peptides as Chemosensory Signals in the Vomeronasal Organ

Science  05 Nov 2004:
Vol. 306, Issue 5698, pp. 1033-1037
DOI: 10.1126/science.1102818

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Abstract

The mammalian vomeronasal organ detects social information about gender, status, and individuality. The molecular cues carrying this information remain largely unknown. Here, we show that small peptides that serve as ligands for major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules function also as sensory stimuli for a subset of vomeronasal sensory neurons located in the basal Gao- and V2R receptor–expressing zone of the vomeronasal epithelium. In behaving mice, the same peptides function as individuality signals underlying mate recognition in the context of pregnancy block. MHC peptides constitute a previously unknown family of chemosensory stimuli by which MHC genotypic diversity can influence social behavior.

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