Murine scent mark microbial communities are genetically determined

Clare V. Lanyon*, Stephen P. Rushton, Anthony G. O'Donnell, Mike Goodfellow, Alan C. Ward, Marion Petrie, Susanne P. Jensen, L. Morris Gosling, Dustin J. Penn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


Scent marking in mice allows males to communicate information such as territory ownership, male competitive ability and current reproductive, nutritional, social and health status. It has been suggested that female mice eavesdrop on these olfactory cues, using them as a means of selecting mates with dissimilar major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes, known as H2 in mice. The mechanisms underpinning MHC-dependent olfactory communication remain unresolved. Using congenic mouse strains and molecular methods we explore the involvement of the microbial communities, a known source of odourants, in scent marks to test the hypothesis that the microbial communities and hence the olfactory signals are genetically determined. Here we show that the indigenous microbial community of murine scent marks is genetically determined. Both background genotype and H2 haplotype influence the community structure of the scent mark flora, removing the possibility that community composition is solely orchestrated by the MHC. Qualitative and quantitative components of the bacterial community associated with MHC haplotype and background genotype were identified. The analyses confirm that the four groups of congenic mice tested are distinguishable on basis of the microbiology of their scent marks alone, strengthening the role of microorganisms in the development of MHC-dependent odours.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)576-583
Number of pages8
JournalFEMS Microbiology Ecology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2007
Externally publishedYes


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