I previously confessed that I subscribe to that glossy hardcopy glut of advertising called Vanity Fair. Invariably, the mag contains photo spreads of ripple-ab’ed dudes hawking various men’s cologne. All this to mask delicious or stinky or neutral 5alpha-androst-16-en-3-one (androstenone); based on one’s genetic variation in the olfactory receptor that binds this steroid, it will smell sweet or icky or not at all. Razib at Gene Expression already covered the recent article in Nature – please see a world of sensory difference.
The Nature article addressed genetic polymorphisms of the OR7D4 receptor’s gene and how 5alpha-androst-16-en-3-one was perceived by people harboring the variants. Razib’s nice summary is short and sweet (maybe I’m an OR7D4 RT/WM) so please check it out. I’ll add that 5alpha-androst-16-en-3-one is the result of steroidogenic biosynthesis, not a mere byproduct of corynebacterial fermentation in the old armpit. I’m titillated to note that OR7D4 is one of my favorite 7-transmembrane domained snaky beasts – a G-protein coupled receptor.
Monkeys are more blatant about their olfactory cues and their potential for luring mates and such. For example, from LiveScience:
Capuchin monkeys wash their feet and hands in urine to get comfort or sex, research now suggests.
Many species of monkeys rinse their feet and hands in their own pee by taking a whiz on their hands and rubbing their feet. Explanations put forward for such urine-washing have included everything from helping the primates cool down to improving their grip on branches.
Primatologist Kimran Miller at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls and her colleagues focused on tufted capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) for 10 months at the National Institutes of Health Animal Center in Maryland.
The alpha male of the group of roughly two dozen monkeys doubled how often he washed in urine when solicited by females.
Miller et al. speculate that the behavior may be a means for the monkeys to calm themselves since the pee-swabbed animals have much lower levels of cortisol, a steroid that is elevated under stressful conditions.
The full study will be published in a future issue of the American Journal of Primatology
Now let’s return to 5alpha-androst-16-en-3-one and pinpointing the OR7D4 receptor as its cognate binding protein. Jeffry Isaacson, a 45 y.o. single neurobiologist at UCal-San Diego, is quoted in the news@nature article (subscription) in response to the possibility of new insight into the action of human pheromones: “They’ve sure got to beat online dating.” I’ll add that they’ve sure got to beat slathering oneself with pee in a fit of pre-date jitters.
Based on my memories back when I had ovarian function, I’d advise guys to eschew drenching themselves in the Dolce & Gabbana and Ralph Lauren synthetics. A shower’d dude with an underlying whiff of 5alpha-androst-16-en-3-one or 4,16-androstadien-3-one is preferable and offers a healthy dose of Reality:
(Image from emergence marketing.)