In sexually naive anestrous ewes, male odour is unable to induce a complete activation of olfactory systems

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Exposure of anestrous females to a ram or his odour induces rapid secretion of LH that can lead to ovulation. This response is mediated by the main olfactory system (MOS) in sexually experienced ewes. The accessory olfactory system (AOS) has a minor, but unclear, role in this response. In sexually naive ewes, male odour is less effective than in experienced ewes, but the neural pathway involved is not known. In our experiment, we investigated the brain regions activated by the male or his odour in young and sexually naive anestrous ewes using immunohistochemistry for Fos alone, Fos double-labeled with Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone (GnRH) or with Tyrosine Hydroxylase (TH). Ram odour caused neural activation in the main olfactory bulb (MOB) and not the AOS. Exposure to a male induced significant activation in the MOB, the cortical and medial nuclei of the amygdala and the ventromedial hypothalamus but not in cortical areas, or in GnRH or TH positive neurons. These results confirm the predominant role of the MOS in the detection of olfactory signals in sheep and underline the importance of learning processes.

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