Associate Professor, Dorris Neuroscience Center
Faculty, Kellogg School of Science and Technology
How Neurons Detect and Respond to Pheromones
We are using a molecular approach to identify how neurons function to generate complex mammalian behavior.
A male mouse listens and sniffs as an animal enters his territory. His sensory systems reveal that it is another mouse, but what is the appropriate behavioral response? He should be defensive only if the intruder is male. Over the past year, we have determined that pheromone cues released from the other mouse act through the vomeronasal organ (VNO) to ensure that appropriate social interactions, including territorial aggression and mating behaviors, are executed without error. Interestingly, the odd confluence of phenotypes we have observed in pheromone response mutants is remarkably similar to human Kluver-Bucy syndrome. This suggests that the central nervous system encodes behavioral information similarly in both humans and mice.
How does the brain recognize environmental stimuli and initiate an appropriate response? What molecules generate these impulses? Which neuronal circuits activate social behavior? We are using mouse molecular genetic techniques, histological, electrophysiological, and behavioral analysis to address these questions and are uncovering surprising information about neuronal coding.
Ph.D., Molecular & Cellular Biology, Harvard University, 1997
Stowers L, Holy TE, Meister M, Dulac C, & Koentges G. Gender discrimination and male-male aggression are abolished in the mouse TRP2-/- mutant 2002 Science. 295:1493-1500.
Functional Expression of Murine V2R Pheromone Receptors Involves Loconto, J, Papes, F, Chang, E, Stowers, L, Jones, EP, Takada, T, Kumanovics, A, Fischer Lindahl, K, Dulac, C Selective Association with the M10 and M1 Families of MHC Class Ib Molecules, 2003 Cell 112:607-618.
Chamero P, Marton TF, Logan DW, Flanagan K, Cruz JR, Saghatelian A, Cravatt BF, Stowers L. Identification of protein pheromones that promote aggressive behaviour. Nature. 2007 Dec 6;450(7171):899-902..
Logan DW, Marton TF, Stowers L. Species specificity in major urinary proteins by parallel evolution. PLoS One. 2008 Sep 25;3(9):e3280.
Papes F, Logan DW, Stowers L. The vomeronasal organ mediates interspecies defensive behaviors through detection of protein pheromone homologs. Cell. 2010 May 14;141(4):692-703.
Flanagan KA, Webb W, Stowers L. Analysis of male pheromones that accelerate female reproductive organ development. PLoS One. 2011 Feb 8;6(2):e16660.
Logan DW, Brunet LJ, Webb WR, Cutforth T, Ngai J, Stowers L. Learned Recognition of Maternal Signature Odors Mediates the First Suckling Episode in Mice. Curr Biol. 2012 Oct 3. doi:pii: S0960-9822(12)01006-8. 10.1016/j.cub.2012.08.041. [Epub ahead of print]