Novel rodent control agent: Identification of a single predator-derived chemical
The Liberles laboratory identified a single, predator-derived chemical that can drive an elaborate danger-associated behavioral response in rodents. The chemical can be synthesized, and used to develop a novel rodent control agent. Unlike a number of commercially available rodent control agents, which are toxic to humans and domesticated animals, this compound is nontoxic and would have minimal adverse effects on wildlife and the environment. Because it is a known compound which can be syntheisized, no urine collection is necessary. In addition, the odor is not detectable by humans. Specific applications include:
• Area-wide application of the chemical
• Embedding the chemical within a material
• Applying the chemical to plants (grain), animals or objects in the environment that come in contact with rodents
• Developing a delivery device which releases the chemical into the air
Innovations and Advantages
Odors from carnivores elicit stereotyped fear and avoidance responses in rodents. These chemical cues are detected and avoided by their prey. Predator-derived olfactory cues are sculpted by strong evolutionary pressure and are critical for survival. These chemicals may also be exploited to develop novel rodent control agents, although few of these chemicals, or the receptors they activate, have been identified.
The Liberles laboratory identified a single chemical compound produced by predators that activates a particular mouse olfactory receptor and triggers hard-wired aversion circuits in the rodent. Together, their data indicate that this predator-derived chemical is detected and avoided by prey, and can be used to develop a rodent control agent.
• Known compound which can be synthesized
• Collection of animal urine is not necessary
• Odor is not detectable by humans
• Compound is not toxic to humans or domesticated animals
• Humane method for deterring rodents
Data from the Liberles laboratory:
• The Liberles lab identified and isolated a predator cue from bobcat urine and showed that this chemical activates a particular rodent olfactory receptor in heterologous cells. In addition, calcium imaging of neuronal responses from mouse olfactory tissue demonstrated that a subset of sensory neurons detects the chemical.
• Quantitative HPLC analysis across 38 mammalian species indicates enriched production of the chemical by numerous carnivores, with some producing >3,000 fold more than herbivores examined. In addition, for 11 of 19 herbivores, the chemical’s concentration was undetectable.
• Two prey species, mice and rats, avoided odor sources containing the chemical, including lion urine as well as the chemical alone (but not a highly related amine). In addition, plasma levels of corticosterone increased following exposure to the chemical (but not the highly related amine), indicating that it activates olfactory circuits that provide input to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis that orchestrates systemic stress responses.
• Loss of function studies involving enzymatic depletion of the chemical from lion urine show that it is required for full avoidance responses in rodents. Furthermore, the chemical evoked avoidance behaviors at physiological concentrations in a blend of other odor cues, indicating that this chemical is the key component of the carnivore odor.
Ferrero, David M.
Liberles, Stephen D.
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Grant Zimmermann, Director of Business Development
Reference Harvard Case #4176