Sexual communication via peptide and protein pheromones


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Abstract

Pheromones are specific substances utilized by various organisms for intraspecific communication about sex, strain, or species. Although pheromones in terrestrial animals tend to be volatile airborne chemicals, large non-volatile molecules such as peptides and proteins are also utilized for sociosexual communication. Peptide pheromones are recognized by specific receptors expressed in the vertebrate vomeronasal organ that comprises a unique chemosensory system. The information is sent to the hypothalamic area wherein the signal is further integrated, leading to various pheromonal outputs. In this review, current knowledge on the structure and function of peptide and protein pheromones in vertebrates as well as the mechanisms underlying receptor-mediated signal processing will be summarized. The present review will also discuss why, from chemical and ecological points of view, peptide pheromones evolved.

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