Ph.D., University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas
Postdoctoral Fellow, Genentech, Inc.
Many animals respond to threats by releasing alarm pheromones (APs) that warn conspecifics. In mice, detection of the AP 2‐sec‐butyl‐4,5‐dihydrothiazole (SBT) is mediated by chemosensory neurons residing in the Grueneberg ganglion (GG) of the anterior nasal region. Although the molecular mechanisms underlying activation of GG neurons by SBT and other substances are still unclear, recent studies have reported an involvement of the transmembrane guanylyl cyclase (GC) subtype GC‐G in chemosensory signaling in the GG. Here, we show that SBT directly binds with high affinity to the extracellular domain of GC‐G and elicits an enhanced enzymatic activity of this protein. In line with this finding, heterologous expression of GC‐G renders cells responsive to SBT while activation by SBT was strongly attenuated in GG neurons from GC‐G‐deficient mice. Consistently, SBT‐induced fear‐associated behaviors, SBT‐evoked elevated blood pressure, and increased serum levels of the stress hormone corticosterone were clearly reduced in GC‐G‐knockout animals compared to wild‐type mice. These observations suggest that GC‐G serves as an unusual receptor in GG neurons mediating the detection of the volatile AP substance SBT.