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Paternal recognition of adult offspring mediated by newly generated CNS neurons


In mammals, olfaction is often used to distinguish individuals on the basis of their unique odor types (genetically programmed body odors). Parental-offspring recognition behavior is mediated, in part, by learning and processing of different odor types and is crucial for reproductive success. Maternal recognition behavior and associated brain plasticity has been well characterized, but paternal recognition behavior and brain plasticity is poorly understood. We found that paternal-adult offspring recognition behavior in mice was dependent on postnatal offspring interaction and was associated with increased neurogenesis in the paternal olfactory bulb and hippocampus. Newly generated paternal olfactory interneurons were preferentially activated by adult offspring odors. Disrupting prolactin signaling abolished increased paternal neurogenesis and adult offspring recognition. Rescuing this neurogenesis restored recognition behavior. Thus, neurogenesis in the paternal brain may be involved in offspring recognition.

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Figure 1: Maternal and paternal mice display adult offspring recognition behavior.
Figure 2: Offspring interaction stimulates cell proliferation in the paternal brain.
Figure 3: Newly generated neurons in the paternal brain preferentially respond to adult offspring odors.
Figure 4: Prolactin mediates offspring-stimulated neurogenesis in the paternal brain.
Figure 5: Newly generated neurons in the paternal brain may be involved in adult offspring recognition behavior.


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We are grateful to K. Markham for her helpful instruction and mentorship. We thank C. Gregg, B. Kolb, K. Lukowiak and D. van der Kooy for comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. This work was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and studentship (G.K.M.) and scientist (S.W.) awards from the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research.

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G.K.M. designed the project, collected the data, performed the analysis and wrote the paper. S.W. supervised the project, contributed to the design of the project and wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Samuel Weiss.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Mak, G., Weiss, S. Paternal recognition of adult offspring mediated by newly generated CNS neurons. Nat Neurosci 13, 753–758 (2010).

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