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Volume 91 Issue 10 | pp. 28-29 | Concentrates
Issue Date: March 11, 2013

A New Mouse Fear Pheromone

The molecule used by mice to communicate alarm is structurally similar to predator scents
Department: Science & Technology | Collection: Critter Chemistry, Life Sciences
News Channels: Biological SCENE
Keywords: mice, alarm, pheromone
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A pheromone used by mice to communicate fear, SBT, is similar in structure to a fox scent, TMT, that also scares the small mammals.
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A pheromone used by mice to communicate fear, SBT, is similar in structure to a fox scent, TMT, that also scares the small mammals.

Freaked-out mice produce a variety of airbone molecules that communicate their alarm to other mice. Researchers in Switzerland are reporting a new such fear pheromone, 2-sec-butyl-4,5-dihydrothiazole (SBT), that mice use to communicate fear among themselves (Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1214249110). The team, led by Marie-Christine Broillet at the University of Lausanne, points out that the new pheromone is structurally similar to a variety of scent compounds produced by predators that also scare mice, such as 2,4,5-trimethylthiazoline (TMT), found in fox feces. SBT and TMT are heterocyclic sulfur- and nitrogen-containing molecules. Both compounds are detected by the Grue­ne­berg ganglion, a sensory organ found in mouse nostrils, near the olfaction center. The team proposes that mice may have evolved the alarm pheromone to make use of a preexisting ability to detect predator scents. They are now searching for protein receptors in the Grue­ne­berg ganglion that can detect both the pheromone and the predator scents.

 
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