Article

Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 417-434

Chemical Identification of MHC-influenced Volatile Compounds in Mouse Urine. I: Quantitative Proportions of Major Chemosignals

  • Milos V. NovotnyAffiliated withInstitute for Pheromone Research, Department of Chemistry, Indiana University Email author 
  • , Helena A. SoiniAffiliated withInstitute for Pheromone Research, Department of Chemistry, Indiana University
  • , Sachiko KoyamaAffiliated withInstitute for Pheromone Research, Department of Chemistry, Indiana University
  • , Donald WieslerAffiliated withInstitute for Pheromone Research, Department of Chemistry, Indiana University
  • , Kevin E. BruceAffiliated withInstitute for Pheromone Research, Department of Chemistry, Indiana University
  • , Dustin J. PennAffiliated withKonrad Lorenz Institute for Ethology, Austrian Academy of Sciences

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Abstract

The genes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) are highly polymorphic loci that encode cell surface proteins, class I and II molecules. They present peptide antigens to T cells and thereby control immunological self/nonself recognition. Increasing evidence indicates that MHC genes also influence odor and mating preferences; however, it is unclear how. Here we report the results of chemical analyses of male mouse urinary odors collected from a variety of mouse strains, including MHC-congenics, recombinants, mutants, and transgenics (i.e., β2 microglobulin “knockouts,” which lack class I expression, and transporters associated with antigen processing (TAP) knock-outs). After the identification of volatile odor components by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, the odor profiles of urine samples were analyzed quantitatively by using stir bar sorptive extraction and gas chromatography/atomic emission detection. Results showed that MHC genes influenced the amounts of testosterone-mediated pheromones, sulfur-containing compounds, and several carbonyl metabolites. This is the first report to quantitatively link known mouse pheromones to classical, antigen-binding MHC loci. Surprisingly, these compounds were not influenced by TAP genes, even though these loci are MHC-linked and play a role in peptide presentation. Whereas identification of MHC-determined odorants does not reveal their metabolic origin, some constituents were also present in blood serum, and their levels were not altered by antibiotics.

Keywords

Individual odor Volatile pheromones Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry Gas chromatography/atomic emission detection MHC genes Mouse urine