Experts who study animal pheromones have traced the evolutionary origins of genes that allow mice, rats and other rodents to communicate through smell. The discovery is a clear example of how new genes can evolve through the random chance of molecular tinkering and may make identifying new pheromones easier in future studies. The results, representing a genealogy for the exocrine-gland secreting peptide (ESP) gene family, were published by researchers at the University of Tokyo in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.
Researchers led by Professor Kazushige Touhara in the University of Tokyo Laboratory of Biological Chemistry previously studied ESP proteins that affect mice’s social or sexual behavior when secreted in one mouse’s tears or saliva and spread to other animals through social touch.
Recently, Project Associate Professor Yoshihito Niimura led a search for the evolutionary origin of ESP genes using the wide variety of fully sequenced animal genomes available