Male mice ultrasonic vocalizations enhance female sexual approach and hypothalamic kisspeptin neuron activity

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Abstract

Vocal communication in animals is important for ensuring reproductive success. Male mice emit song-like “ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs)” when they encounter female mice, and females show approach to the USVs. However, it is unclear whether USVs of male mice trigger female behavioral and endocrine responses in reproduction. In this study, we first investigated the relationship between the number of deliveries in breeding pairs for 4 months and USVs syllables emitted from those paired males during 3 min of sexual encounter with unfamiliar female mice. There was a positive correlation between these two indices, which suggests that breeding pairs in which males could emit USVs more frequently had more offspring. Further, we examined the effect of USVs of male mice on female sexual behavior. Female mice showed more approach behavior towards vocalizing males than devocalized males. Finally, to determine whether USVs of male mice could activate the neural system governing reproductive function in female mice, the activation of kisspeptin neurons, key neurons to drive gonadotropin-releasing hormone neurons in the hypothalamus, was examined using dual-label immunocytochemistry with cAMP response element-binding protein phosphorylation (pCREB). In the arcuate nucleus (Arc), the number of kisspeptin neurons expressing pCREB significantly increased after exposure to USVs of male as compared with noise exposure group. In conclusion, our results suggest that USVs of male mice promote fertility in female mice by activating both their approaching behavior and central kisspeptin neurons.

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