Salivary androgen-binding protein (ABP) mediates sexual isolation in Mus musculus

Christina M. Laukaitis, Elizabeth S. Critser, Robert C. Karn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


We wanted to determine whether the microevolution of the mouse salivary androgen-binding protein (ABP) Alpha subunit gene (Abpa) could mediate sexual selection and thereby have a potential role in maintaining gene pool integrity where radiating mouse subspecies make secondary contact. This hypothesis is based upon previous work in this laboratory, which has shown that each subspecies apparently has its own allele and that these alleles have a 25-fold excess of nonsynonymous/synonymous base substitutions compared to an average protein under purifying selection. We provide direct evidence for ABP-assortative mate selection in a laboratory setting: Mus musculus domesticus and M. m. musculus female mice recognize and discriminate between the territories of male mice that essentially differ solely in their Abpa genotype and, when the males are present, the female prefers to mate with the one of her own ABP type. The observation that females could differentiate between the territories of the two males when those mice were absent suggests that the males marked their territories with ABP. In this study, we also detected ABP on the pelts of male mice and in their environment. It is likely that the animals apply the protein to their pelts by licking and that it is then deposited in their surroundings. We suggest that females of the two subspecies are able to discriminate between males of those subspecies on the basis of this protein molecule. Mouse salivary ABP might present a worthwhile system with which to study a prezygotic isolation mechanism in a mammal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2000-2005
Number of pages6
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1997


  • Assortative mate selection behavior
  • Hybrid zone
  • Mus musculus complex
  • Prezygotic isolation
  • Sexual selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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