Putative Chemical Signals about Sex, Individuality, and Genetic Background in the Preputial Gland and Urine of the House Mouse (Mus musculus)

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To explore whether preputial gland secretions and/or urine from the house mouse (Mus musculus) can be used for coding information about sex, individuality, and/or the genetic background of strain [ICR/albino, Kunming (KM), and C57BL/6], we compared the volatile compositions of mouse preputial glands and urine using a combination of dichloromethane extraction and gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (GC–MS). Of the 40 identified compounds in preputial gland secretions, 31 were esters, 2 sesquiterpens, and 7 alcohols. We failed to find any compound unique to a specific sex, individual, or strain. However, many low molecular weight compounds between the sexes, most compounds among individuals, and several compounds among the 3 strains varied significantly in relative ratios. These quantitative differences in preputial gland volatiles (analog coding) are likely to convey information about sex, individual, and the genetic background of mouse strain. We identified 2 new main and male-elevated compounds, 1-hexadecanol (Z = 3.676, P = 0.000, N = 19 in ICR; Z = 3.576, P = 0.000, N = 18) and 1-hexadecanol acetate (Z = 3.429, P = 0.000, N = 19 in ICR; Z = 3.225, P = 0.001, N = 18), which were eluted in GC chromatogram after the 2 sesquiterpens. They might also be potential male pheromones, in addition to the well-known E-β-farnesene and E,E-α-farnesene. Additionally, a few compounds including 1-hexadecanol also varied with strains and might also code for genetic information. Of the 9 identified volatile compounds in male urine, (s)-2-sec-butyl-4,5-dihydrothiazole and R,R-3,4-dehydro-exo-brevicomin are known urine-originated male pheromones from previous studies. We also detected 6-hydroxy-6-methyl-3-heptanone, a male urinary pheromonal compound, which had not been directly detected by GC–MS previously. Chemical analysis shows that the genetically more closely related ICR and KM strains had a higher similarity in the volatile compositions of preputial glands and urine than that between ICR or KM and C57BL/6. R,R-3,4-dehydro-exo-brevicomin, in particular, was sensitive to genetic shifts and differed in relative abundance among the 3 strains, whereas (s)-2-sec-butyl-4,5-dihydrothiazole differed between ICR or Km and C57BL/6. Hence, these 2 compounds might code for information about their genetic background.


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Chemical Senses


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