Functional vomeronasal receptor genes in primates?

By: James V. Kohl | Published on: December 27, 2012

First evidence for functional vomeronasal 2 receptor genes in primates

Abstract excerpt(s):
1)  “In primates, the V2R repertoire has been considered degenerate. Here, we identify for the first time two intact V2R loci in a strepsirrhine primate, the grey mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus), and demonstrate their expression in the vomeronasal organ….”
2) “The functional significance of the loci is unknown, but positive selection on one of them is consistent with an adaptive role in pheromone detection. Finally, conservation of V2R loci in strepsirrhines is notable, given their high diversity and role in MUP and MHC detection in rodents.”
My comment: Jay Feierman, who moderates the human ethology group, mentioned this forthcoming article, and immediately followed it with his comment: Note that the grey mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus) is nocturnal, like its namesake, the rodent mouse.
He rejected my response to his attempt to focus on this primate’s nocturnal behavior, which has nothing to do with the report on the link from pheromones in mice to pheromones in primates. Here’s the point:
> Note also that MHC detection is a feature common to all mammals. It is detected
> via species-specific pheromones and no VNO is required to do this. Thus, anyone
> who attempts to make it appear that the differences between species-specific
> detection of social odors/pheromones has something to do with differences
> between nocturnal species and those that are not nocturnal species, may be
> attempting to mislead others outside the context of what is known about cause
> and effect in species from microbes to man. Similarly, attempts to mislead
> others confuse them about the importance of pheromones to myelination of the
> brain, where species differences also are most easily linked to species-specific
> pheromones, as I have detailed in a series of publications since 1996 that link
> luteinizing hormone to specific aspects of brain development, including those
> that are sexually differentiated by pheromones.
 New form of brain plasticity: Research shows how social isolation disrupts myelin production.”
The importance of olfactory/pheromonal input to adaptive evolution of the brain and behavior becomes clearer with news reports like these. What’s clearest is the fact that the epigenetic effects of olfactory input on adaptive evolution are part of an evolutionary continuum that has can no longer be denied. For example, the lack of a human VNO has nothing to do with the fact that social isolation disrupts myelin production due to the absence of social odors (i.e., pheromones). Thus, the importance of human pheromones to myelin production is clear.

Unless, that is, people like Feierman continue to try and make the importance less clear, as they have done for more than 50 years. Simply put, they have denied that human pheromones play any role whatsoever in the development of human behavior. Now, mouse-to-primate models attest to olfactory conditioning of hormones and behavior, which make it more difficult for evolutionary theorists or for human ethologists to deny the fact that “Olfaction and odor receptors provide a clear evolutionary trail that can be followed from unicellular organisms to insects to humans. 
So why are people like Feierman continuing to mislead others? I think its because they missed something of critical importance to understanding the development of the human brain and behavior, and are embarassed to think that others might know what they missed. If you were like Feierman, you might also do your best to keep others from learning what you did not.

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