The Scent of a Man...or a Monkey.

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:

To Get Sex, Monkeys Rub Themselves with Pee

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:

i-548c4dc819fb6c4aa905d918d788ce31-calvin klien_reality.jpg

(Image from emergence marketing.)

More like this

The alpha male of the group of roughly two dozen monkeys doubled how often he washed in urine when solicited by females.

Hmmm ... I never get solicited more than once ...

By Scott Belyea (not verified) on 25 Sep 2007 #permalink

I can't get too close to Vanity Fair (or Cosmo) without setting off a cacophony of sneezing. My male cat is similiarly adverse to perfume advertisements - he indicated his displeasure by depositing a hairball on one such ad that I had shaken out of the magazine in the interest of self-preservation.

"The researchers also found monkeys that urine-washed frequently had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol"
So this is the secret "natural" cure to stress. To make it work, offices may have to alter the dress code to shorts and sandals with no socks.

I can't seem to find the button for "Previous posts" on your blog.

By Tegumai Bopsul… (not verified) on 26 Sep 2007 #permalink

I can't seem to find the button for "Previous posts" on your blog.

Posted by: Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD

I'm afraid all we have available at the Refuge is the Archives button in the top menu immediately beneath the chimp-a-licious banner. Lately, I've adopted territorial behavior and thus am marking (but not with urine) my entries as "Doc Bushwell" which now appears as a category in the Archives. However, I haven't spent much time marking retrospective entries. I need to do that.

"Hmmm ... I never get solicited more than once ..."

Here in Vegas, you can change that if you douse yourself in a cologne designed to simulate the smell of money.

By Christian (not verified) on 02 Oct 2007 #permalink