Pyrazine analogues are active components of wolf urine that induce avoidance and freezing behaviours in mice.

Research paper by Kazumi K Osada, Kenzo K Kurihara, Hiroshi H Izumi, Makoto M Kashiwayanagi

Indexed on: 03 May '13Published on: 03 May '13Published in: PloS one


The common grey wolf (Canis lupus) is found throughout the entire Northern hemisphere and preys on many kinds of mammals. The urine of the wolf contains a number of volatile constituents that can potentially be used for predator-prey chemosignalling. Although wolf urine is put to practical use to keep rabbits, rodents, deer and so on at bay, we are unaware of any prior behavioural studies or chemical analyses regarding the fear-inducing impact of wolf urine on laboratory mice.Three wolf urine samples harvested at different times were used in this study. All of them induced stereotypical fear-associated behaviors (i.e., avoidance and freezing) in female mice. The levels of certain urinary volatiles varied widely among the samples. To identify the volatiles that provoked avoidance and freezing, behavioural, chemical, and immunohistochemical analyses were performed. One of the urine samples (sample C) had higher levels of 2,6-dimethylpyrazine (DMP), trimethylpyrazine (TMP), and 3-ethyl-2,5-dimethyl pyrazine (EDMP) compared with the other two urine samples (samples A and B). In addition, sample C induced avoidance and freezing behaviours more effectively than samples A and B. Moreover, only sample C led to pronounced expression of Fos-immunoreactive cells in the accessory olfactory bulb (AOB) of female mice. Freezing behaviour and Fos immunoreactivity were markedly enhanced when the mice were confronted with a mixture of purified DMP, TMP, and EDMP vs. any one pyrazine alone.The current results suggest that wolf urinary volatiles can engender aversive and fear-related responses in mice. Pyrazine analogues were identified as the predominant active components among these volatiles to induce avoidance and freezing behaviours via stimulation of the murine AOB.