Differential expression of urinary volatile organic compounds by sex, male reproductive status, and pairing status in the maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus)

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The maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) is an induced ovulator. Though the mechanism of ovulation induction remains unknown, it is suspected to be urinary chemical signals excreted by males. This study assessed volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in weekly urine samples across 5 months from 13 maned wolves (6 intact males, 1 neutered male, 6 females) with the goal of identifying VOCs that are differentially expressed across sex, reproductive status, and pairing status. Solid-phase microextraction (SPME) and gas chromatography- mass spectrometry (GC-MS) were used to extract and separate VOCs that were identified via spectral matching with authentic standards, with spectral libraries, or with new software that further matches molecular fragment structures with mass spectral peaks. Two VOCs were present across all 317 urine samples: 2,5-dimethyl pyrazine and 2-methyl- 6-(1-propenyl)-pyrazine. Fifteen VOCs differed significantly (Adj. P < 0.001 and |log2 fold change| >2.0) between intact males and females. Using partial least squares-discriminant analysis, the compounds with the highest importance to the sex classification were deltadecalactone, delta-dodecalactone, and bis(prenyl) sulfide. Sixty-two VOCs differed between intact males and the neutered male. Important classifier compounds were 3-ethyl 2,5- dimethyl pyrazine, 2-methyl-6-(1-propenyl)-pyrazine, and tetrahydro-2-isopentyl-5-propyl furan. Several VOCs established as important here have been implicated in reproductive communication in other mammals. This study is the most robust examination of differential expression in the maned wolf thus far and provides the most comprehensive analysis of maned wolf urinary VOCs to date, increasing the sample size substantially over previous chemical communication studies in this species. New data analysis software allowed for the identification of compounds in the hormone-producing mevalonate pathway which were previously unreported in maned wolf urine. Several putative semiochemicals were identified as good candidates for behavioral bioassays to determine their role in maned wolf reproduction, and specifically in ovulation induction.




Jones, M. K., Huff, T. B., Freeman, E. W., & Songsasen, N. (2021). Differential expression of urinary volatile organic compounds by sex, male reproductive status, and pairing status in the maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus). PLoS ONE, 16(8 August). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0256388

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