Nucleus Accumbens Dopamine Signaling Regulates Sexual Preference for Females in Male Mice

Yamit Beny-Shefer, Noga Zilkha, Yael Lavi-Avnon, Nadav Bezalel, Ilana Rogachev, Alexander Brandis, Molly Dayan, Tali Kimchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Sexual preference for the opposite sex is a fundamental behavior underlying reproductive success, but the neural mechanisms remain unclear. Here, we examined the role of dopamine signaling in the nucleus accumbens core (NAcc) in governing chemosensory-mediated preference for females in TrpC2−/− and wild-type male mice. TrpC2−/− males, deficient in VNO-mediated signaling, do not display mating or olfactory preference toward females. We found that, during social interaction with females, TrpC2−/− males do not show increased NAcc dopamine levels, observed in wild-type males. Optogenetic stimulation of VTA-NAcc dopaminergic neurons in TrpC2−/− males during exposure to a female promoted preference response to female pheromones and elevated copulatory behavior toward females. Additionally, we found that signaling through the D1 receptor in the NAcc is necessary for the olfactory preference for female-soiled bedding. Our study establishes a critical role for the mesolimbic dopaminergic system in governing pheromone-mediated responses and mate choice in male mice. Beny-Shefer et al. find that female-specific pheromone signals detected by the vomeronasal organ induce dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens core (NAcc) of male mice. Optogenetic stimulation of the mesolimbic dopamine system in males during female exposure promotes sexual preference and behavior, whereas blocking NAcc dopamine receptor type 1 obstructs sexual preference.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3079-3088
Number of pages10
JournalCell Reports
Issue number11
StatePublished - 12 Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Authors


  • TrpC2
  • dopamine
  • mice
  • nucleus accumbens
  • optogenetics
  • pheromones
  • sexual preference
  • social behavior


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