The pheromone that attracts female mice to the odour of a particular male has been identified. Named 'darcin' by researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Biology (after Darcy, the attractive hero in Jane Austen's novel "Pride and Prejudice"), this unusual protein in a male's urine attracts females and is responsible for learned preference for specific males.
Jane Hurst led a team of researchers from the University of Liverpool to carry out the study on over 450 captive bred adult female house mice. The mice were presented with two urine scent marks, one male and one female, and the amount of time they spent near each was recorded. In some tests the mice could physically contact the scent mark, in other tests they received only airborne scent. Hurst said, "Contact with darcin consistently doubled the time spent near a male's scent. Touching darcin with the nose also made females learn that particular male's odour, subsequently tripling the time spent near to the airborne scent of that individual male but showing no attraction to other males".
Sexually attractive chemical signals are common to many animals, from nematode worms to elephants. In mice, urinary scent marks are known to be used as a means of advertising location, successful territory ownership and dominance and are used by females in mate selection. The identification of darcin as a key component of this messaging system is the first time that a specific protein has been shown to drive inherent sexual attraction to individual males in a complex vertebrate. According to Hurst, "Although darcin is species-specific, similar pheromones that stimulate learning of an individual's scent could even underlie some complex, individual-specific responses of humans".
Notes to Editors
1. Darcin: a male pheromone that stimulates female memory and sexual attraction to an individual male's odour
Sarah A Roberts, Deborah M Simpson, Stuart D Armstrong, Amanda J Davidson, Duncan H Robertson, Lynn McLean, Robert J Beynon and Jane L Hurst
BMC Biology (in press)
During embargo, article available here: http://www.
After the embargo, article available at the journal website: http://www.
Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.
Article citation and URL available on request at firstname.lastname@example.org on the day of publication.
2. BMC Biology is the flagship biology journal of the BMC series, now incorporating Journal of Biology, the premier biology journal of BioMed Central, and publishes peer-reviewed research and methodology articles of special importance and broad interest in any area of biology and biomedical sciences, as well as full reviews, opinion pieces, commentary and Q&As on topics of special or topical interest. BMC Biology (ISSN 1741-7007) is covered by PubMed, MEDLINE, BIOSIS, CAS, EMBASE, Scopus, Zoological Record, CABI, Thomson Reuters (ISI) and Google Scholar.
3. BioMed Central (http://www.