Sexually Dimorphic Enhancement by Estradiol of Male Urinary Odor Detection Thresholds in Mice

Krystina G. Sorwell, Daniel W. Wesson, Michael J. Baum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


We asked whether sex and adult estrogen exposure influence the detection thresholds for urinary odors used by mice to guide their social behaviors. Gonadectomized (GDX) male and female mice were trained on a two-choice food-motivated task to determine detection thresholds for male urinary odors. There was no significant sex difference in the detection of these odors by GDX subjects without hormone replacement. However, during treatment with estradiol benzoate (EB), GDX females, but not GDX males, showed an enhanced ability to detect these odors. To investigate a possible mechanism for this effect, the authors measured GDX females' odor-sampling behavior (sniffing) by monitoring intranasal pressure transients during performance of the urinary odor detection task with and without EB treatment. Under both hormone conditions, females decreased their sniffing frequency as the urinary odor concentration decreased, with this decrease being significantly greater while GDX females received EB. Thus, estradiol enhanced detection thresholds for male urine in a sex-specific manner, and this enhanced sensitivity in females was correlated with altered odor-sampling behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)788-793
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioral Neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • odor detection
  • olfaction
  • sex differences
  • sex hormones
  • sniffing


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