1. Puberty onset in female mice is accelerated by exposure to conspecific adult male urine, which acts through the vomeronasal organ and the accessory olfactory system. A distinctive component of adult male mouse urine is the major urinary protein complex (MUP), which is a lipocalin; it has a hydrophobic pocket that binds small endogenous volatile molecules. The MUP gene family also codes for a hexapeptide, which has four residues in common with the N‐terminal region of MUP. 2. MUP, the volatiles bound to MUP and the MUP‐related hexapeptide have been tested for the induction of puberty acceleration by measuring the increase in uterus weight related to the first pro‐oestrus phase. MUP, together with its bound volatiles, induces puberty acceleration. Its activity is retained even when the volatiles have been removed either by organic extraction or competition displacement with a high‐affinity ligand. 3. MUP‐related hexapeptide also induces puberty acceleration in female mice. In contrast, the odorants bound to MUP do not exert this effect. 4. It is proposed that the vomeronasal organ contains receptors that recognize the short N‐terminal consensus sequence, N‐Glu‐Glu‐Ala‐X‐Ser (where X is a polar residue), common to both MUP and the hexapeptide. © 1995 The Physiological Society
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