Influence of viruses on MUP production

Michael B A Oldstone, Brian C Ware, Amanda Davidson, Mark C Prescott, Robert J Beynon, Jane L Hurst (2021) Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus Alters the Expression of Male Mouse Scent Proteins. Viruses Jun 21;13(6):1180. doi: 10.3390/v13061180.

Mature male mice produce a particularly high concentration of major urinary proteins (MUPs) in their scent marks that provide identity and status information to conspecifics. Darcin (MUP20) is inherently attractive to females and, by inducing rapid associative learning, leads to specific attraction to the individual male's odour and location. Other polymorphic central MUPs, produced at much higher abundance, bind volatile ligands that are slowly released from a male's scent marks, forming the male's individual odour that females learn. Here, we show that infection of C57BL/6 males with LCMV WE variants (v2.2 or v54) alters MUP expression according to a male's infection status and ability to clear the virus. MUP output is substantially reduced during acute adult infection with LCMV WE v2.2 and when males are persistently infected with LCMV WE v2.2 or v54. Infection differentially alters expression of darcin and, particularly, suppresses expression of a male's central MUP signature. However, following clearance of acute v2.2 infection through a robust virus-specific CD8 cytotoxic T cell response that leads to immunity to the virus, males regain their normal mature male MUP pattern and exhibit enhanced MUP output by 30 days post-infection relative to uninfected controls. We discuss the likely impact of these changes in male MUP signals on female attraction and mate selection. As LCMV infection during pregnancy can substantially reduce embryo survival and lead to lifelong infection in surviving offspring, we speculate that females use LCMV-induced changes in MUP expression both to avoid direct infection from a male and to select mates able to develop immunity to local variants that will be inherited by their offspring.

Keywords: CTL; MUPs; darcin; pheromones; selection; sex; virus.