Male Chemosignals Increase Litter Size in House Mice
Reproduction in house mice, Mus musculus, and many other mammals is strongly influenced by urinary priming pheromones (Bronson, 1989; Vandenbergh, 1983). In house mice, such priming pheromones synchronize estrus and block pregnancy when exposure to the stimulus occurs prior to implantation. Priming pheromones also accelerate and inhibit the onset of puberty (Whitten, 1956; Bruce, 1959; Vandenbergh 1983). The acceleration of puberty by male urine is the most relevant to this report. Both puberty acceleration and the effect on litter size described in this report involve a positive influence of male stimulation on ovulation. The onset of puberty is hastened in female mice by the presence of adult males or their urine (Vandenbergh, 1967; 1969). A fraction of male urine at about 860 Daltons has been isolated that contains the biological activity (Vandenbergh et al., 1976), although another report suggests that the active pheromone may be a mixture of isobutylamine and isoamylamine (Nishimura et al., 1989). Recent work in our laboratory failed to replicate that latter finding (Price and Vandenbergh, submitted). The presence of the puberty accelerating pheromone in male urine is androgen dependent and is influenced by the social status of the donor (Lombardi and Vandenbergh, 1976). Since a male-produced pheromone could influence the first ovulation of a female, we reasoned that it might also influence the number of eggs ovulated by an adult, cycling female mouse.
KeywordsLitter Size House Mouse Ovulation Rate Copulatory Plug Male Urine
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