[en] main olfactory system ; male mice ; sexual behavior ; sexual experience ; zinc sulfate
[en] Recent studies point to an important role for the main olfactory epithelium (MOE) in regulating sexual behavior in male mice. We asked whether sexual experience could compensate for the disruptive effects of lesioning the MOE on sexual behavior in male mice. Male mice, which were either sexually naive or experienced, received an intranasal irrigation of either a zinc sulfate solution to destroy the MOE or saline. Sexual behavior in mating tests with an estrous female was completely abolished in zinc sulfate-treated male mice regardless of whether subjects were sexually experienced or not before the treatment. Furthermore, zinc sulfate treatment clearly disrupted olfactory investigation of both volatile and nonvolatile odors. Destruction of the MOE by zinc sulfate treatment was confirmed by a significant reduction in the expression of Fos protein in the main olfactory bulb following exposure to estrous female urine. By contrast, vomeronasal function did not seem to be affected by zinc sulfate treatment: nasal application of estrous female urine induced similar levels of Fos protein in the mitral and granule cells of the accessory olfactory bulb (AOB) of zinc sulfate- and saline-treated males. Likewise, the expression of soybean agglutinin, which stains the axons of vomeronasal organ neurons projecting to the glomerular layer of the AOB, was similar in zinc sulfate- and saline-treated male mice. These results show that the main olfactory system is essential for the expression of sexual behavior in male mice and that sexual experience does not overcome the disruptive effects of MOE lesioning on this behavior.