Lesions of the vomeronasal organ disrupt mating-induced pair bonding in female prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster)

J. Thomas Curtis, Yan Liu, Zuoxin Wang

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70 Scopus citations


The prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster) is a highly social, monogamous species and displays pair bonding that can be assessed by the presence of selective affiliation with the familiar partner versus a conspecific stranger. In female prairie voles, exposure to a male or to male sensory cues is essential for estrus induction, and the subsequent mating facilitates pair bond formation. In the present study, we examined the role of the vomeronasal organ (VNO) in estrus induction and pair bonding in female prairie voles. VNO lesions did not alter olfaction mediated by the main olfactory system, but did prevent male-induced estrus induction. We by-passed the necessity of the VNO for estrus induction by estrogen priming the females. Despite the fact that all subjects displayed similar levels of mating, social contact and locomotor activities, VNO lesioned females failed to show mating-induced pair bonding whereas intact and sham-lesioned females displayed a robust preference for the familiar partner. Our data not only support previous findings that the VNO is important for estrus induction but also indicate that this structure is crucial for mating-induced pair bonding, suggesting an important role for the VNO in reproductive success in prairie voles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-174
Number of pages8
JournalBrain Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 18 May 2001


  • Estrus induction
  • Monogamy
  • Olfaction
  • Social behavior
  • Vomeronasal organ


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