Unraveling female communication through scent marks in the Norway rat

Gomez-Baena, Guadalupe ORCID: 0000-0003-3796-3874, Pounder, Kieran C, Halstead, Josiah O, Roberts, Sarah A, Davidson, Amanda J, Prescott, Mark, Beynon, Robert J ORCID: 0000-0003-0857-495X and Hurst, Jane L ORCID: 0000-0002-3728-9624
(2023) Unraveling female communication through scent marks in the Norway rat. PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 120 (25). e2300794120-.

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Chemical communication by females remains poorly understood, with most attention focused on female advertisement of sexual receptivity to males or mother-offspring communication. However, in social species, scents are likely to be important for mediating competition and cooperation between females determining individual reproductive success. Here, we explore chemical signaling by female laboratory rats (<i>Rattus norvegicus</i>) to test i) whether females target their deployment of scent information differentially according to their sexual receptivity and the genetic identity of both female and male conspecifics signaling in the local environment and ii) whether females are attracted to gain the same or different information from female scents compared to males. Consistent with targeting of scent information to colony members of similar genetic background, female rats increased scent marking in response to scents from females of the same strain. Females also suppressed scent marking in response to male scent from a genetically foreign strain while sexually receptive. Proteomic analysis of female scent deposits revealed a complex protein profile, contributed from several sources but dominated by clitoral gland secretion. In particular, female scent marks contained a series of clitoral-derived hydrolases and proteolytically truncated major urinary proteins (MUPs). Manipulated blends of clitoral secretion and urine from estrus females were strongly attractive to both sexes, while voided urine alone stimulated no interest. Our study reveals that information about female receptive status is shared between females as well as with males, while clitoral secretions containing a complex set of truncated MUPs and other proteins play a key role in female communication.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: scent communication, female rat, clitoral gland, proteomics, MUP
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences > Institute of Infection, Veterinary and Ecological Sciences
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences > Institute of Systems, Molecular and Integrative Biology
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 10 Jul 2023 13:26
Last Modified: 23 Aug 2023 18:43
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2300794120
Open Access URL: https://europepmc.org/backend/ptpmcrender.fcgi?acc...
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URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/3171602