In order to test the hypothesis that commensal bacteria influence the urinary odors of individuality, we collected urine from PVG and PVG.R1 male rats born by cesarian section and reared in a germ-free environment. Using the habituation-dishabituation test with PVG.RT1 u and Lister hooded rats as subjects, we found that urine from the germ-free rats was not discriminated, while urine from conventionally housed rats of the same strains could be discriminated (experiment 1). When the germ-free rats were moved to a conventional animal house after recolonization with commensural flora and their urine collected, it was discriminated, indicating an essential role of bacteria in determining the unique urinary odors of MHC-congenic rats (experiment 2). The conventionally housed and germ-free rats did not differ in the amount of class I antigen in their urine (experiment 3). Finally, urines of PVG and PVG.R1 donors inoculated with a defined and highly restricted flora to render them specific-pathogen-free (SPF) could not be discriminated. Urine from SPF donors moved to a conventional animal house could be discriminated (experiment 4). These results indicate that commensal bacteria are essential for the production of the unique individual odor of the urine of MHC-congenic strains of rats.
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Singh, P.B., Herbert, J., Roser, B. et al. Rearing rats in a germ-free environment eliminates their odors of individuality. J Chem Ecol 16, 1667–1682 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01014099
- Individual recognition
- body odor
- odor discrimination
- major histocompatibility complex
- congenic strains
- rearing conditions