The discovery of a peptide that is secreted from the eyes of male mice and elicits neuronal activity in the vomeronasal organ (VNO) of females, points to a new mode of chemical communication between mammals, according to the authors of a new study in Nature. As well as identifying a novel source of mammalian chemical signals, the study suggests that such signals can be mediated by non-volatile molecules transferred during direct contact between individuals.

Kazushige Touhara, who led the study at the University of Tokyo's Department of Integrated Biosciences, said that exocrine gland-secreting peptide (ESP) 1 is "the first non-volatile pheromone" to be identified in mammals and "the first authentic pheromone" found to stimulate the VNO of mice in vivo.

"One of the biggest mysteries in chemosensory perception is that we still haven't figured out what the active pheromone compounds are that mammals use," said Catherine Dulac,...

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