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Chemical Senses

Year: 2010  |  Volume: 35  |  Issue: 1  |  Page No.: 47 - 56

Foxn1 Gene Knockout Suppresses Sexual Attractiveness and Pheromonal Components of Male Urine in Inbred Mice

J. X Zhang, L Sun and Y. H. Zhang


The immunocompetence handicap hypothesis (ICHH) posits that females prefer signals emitted by immunocompetent males over immunocompromised males and that these signals are honest. However, mechanisms of mate choice under an ICHH model may be impacted by levels of genetic variation (inbred animals vs. outbred animals). Here, we conducted 2-choice female preference experiments and chemical analyses of male urine in inbred BALB/c and outbred CD-1 mice, both of which have immunocompromised nude (nu) strains resulting from a Foxn1 gene knockout. We found that inbred BALB/c females but not outbred CD-1 females preferred the urine of healthy males over that of immunocompromised males despite measured differences in the qualities of their urine. There was a clear increase in female-attracting pheromones (such as farnesenes) in the preputial glands and urine metabolites in healthy BALB/c males but no such difference between CD-1 and CD-1 nu males. Therefore, CD-1 male urine failed to provide an honest mate-choice cue for females. Our results suggest that deleterious traits associated with male odor in mice might be jointly affected by the level of inbreeding and immunodeficiency caused by a single-gene knockout.

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