Study IDs Male Mouse Pheromone

LIVERPOOL, England, June 3 (UPI) — British scientists say they’ve identified the pheromone that attracts female mice to the odor of a particular male and have named the pheromone “darcin.”

The researchers, led by University of Liverpool Professor Jane Hurst, said the unusual protein in a male mouse’s urine attracts females and is responsible for learned preference for specific males.

The scientists said their research involved more than 450 captive bred adult female house mice that 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, while in other tests they received only airborne scent.

“Contact with darcin consistently doubled the time spent near a male’s scent,” Hurst said. “Touching darcin with the nose also made females learn that particular male’s odor, subsequently tripling the time spent near to the airborne scent of that individual male, but showing no attraction to other males.”

She said the identification of darcin marks the first time a specific protein has been shown to drive inherent sexual attraction to individual males in a complex vertebrate.

“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,” Hurst said.

Hurst and her colleagues said they named the pheromone after the main male character, Mr. Darcy, in Jane Austen’s novel “Pride and Prejudice.”

The research appears in the journal BMC Biology.

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