Olfactory fingerprints for major histocompatibility complex-determined body odors

Michele L. Schaefer, David A. Young, Diego Restrepo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

125 Scopus citations


Recognition of individual body odors is analogous to human face recognition in that it provides information about identity. Individual body odors determined by differences at the major histocompatibility complex (MHC or H-2) have been shown to influence mate choice, pregnancy block, and maternal behavior in mice. Unfortunately, the mechanism and extent of the main olfactory bulb (MOB) and accessory olfactory bulb (AOB) involvement in the discrimination of animals according to H-2-type has remained ambiguous. Here we study the neuronal activation patterns evoked in the MOB in different individuals on exposure to these complex, biologically meaningful sensory stimuli. We demonstrate that body odors from H-2 disparate mice evoke overlapping but distinct maps of neuronal activation in the MOB. The spatial patterns of odor-evoked activity are sufficient to be used like fingerprints to predict H-2 identity using a novel computer algorithm. These results provide functional evidence for discrimination of H-2-determined body odors in the MOB, but do not preclude a role for the AOB. These data further our understanding of the neural strategies used to decode socially relevant odors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2481-2487
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Coding
  • Complex odors
  • Congenic mice
  • Major histocompatibility complex
  • Mapping
  • Olfactory
  • Recognition
  • Urine
  • c-fos

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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