Flipping one genetic switch in the brains of female mice makes them behave like sex-crazed males, a new research has said. The finding implies that females’ brains have the same circuit that governs sexual behaviour in male mice and that it’s simple to convert one to the other.
It also goes against the prevailing idea that sex hormones, such as testosterone, are crucial regulators of sexual behaviour in animals, the research published in the Nature magazine said. Catherine Dulac and her colleagues at Harvard University genetically engineered female mice to lack a gene called TRPC2. This gene is essential for the functioning of an organ in the nose called the vomeronasal organ.
Without the gene, female mice acted exactly like males even towards male mice complete with mounting, pelvic thrusts and the ultrasound calls that males use to attract a mate. Left in a large semi-natural enclosure for a month, female mice lacking TRPC2 still chased males and attempted to mount them. Many of the females gave birth to pups, but they were bad at nursing and and protecting them. To test whether the behaviour of the mutant mice was due to abnormal brain development resulting from the missing gene, the researchers surgically removed the vomeronasal organ from a group of adult female mice.