Jacobson organ

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sagital section 1: Paraseptal cartilage, (Cartilago paraseptalis); 2: Opening to Jacobson's organ, in which a probe was advanced ; 3: tuberculum septi nasi; 4: Nasopalatine duct (Stenson's duct); 5: The mouth of the sphenoid sinus (sinus sphenoidalis) in the recessus sphenoethmoidalis 6: Sinus frontalis .
Positional relationship of the vomeronasal organ (Jacobson) in a human embryo about 3 cm in size. Schematic representation of the nasal and oral cavities with a section in the frontal plane .
The Jacobson's organ is shown here as a two-sided system in the nasal septum adjacent to the septal cartilage ( cartilage septi nasi specified, blue); Below is a paraseptal strip of cartilage on both sides ( Cartilago vomeronasalis , also blue).

The Jacobson organ , Jacobson organ or vomeronasal organ ( Latin organum vomeronasale ) is an olfactory organ developed in many vertebrates , which, like the olfactory mucosa , is assigned to the olfactory system . The organ is named after the Danish surgeon Ludwig Levin Jacobson (1783–1843), who rediscovered the organ first described by Frederik Ruysch in snakes in 1809.

The sense of smell is not only important in order to suspect, locate, check and be able to find food sources, to smell sources of danger and to notice territorial markings, but also to distinguish between individuals, to recognize their affiliation and to help in the search for a sexual partner . In addition to the olfactory region, vertebrates usually have a vomeronasal organ (VNO) developed differently for this specific olfactory or pheromone perception in the nasal cavity .

Scheme of the Jacobson organ in a reptile.


In mammals, the vomeronasal or Jacobson's organ consists of tiny indentations (diameter between 0.2 and 2 millimeters ) on both sides of the nasal septum ( septum nasi ) approximately opposite the inferior turbinate ( concha nasalis inferior ) and lies below the nasal septum cartilage ( cartilage septi nasi ) as above the adjacent ploughshare ( vomer ).

A detailed examination of the histological ultrastructure of the Jacobson organ was reported by David Taylor Moran, Bruce W. Jafek and J. Carter Rowley (1991).

Oral cavity of a house cat ( Felis silvestris catus ). The access to the Jacobson organ ( ductus incisivus ) is visible as a small papilla ( papilla incisiva ) palatally behind the incisors .

These hose-like indentations are generally not reached by the air we breathe. On the side of their openings, in the contact area with Jacobson's cartilage (Paraseptal cartilage , Cartilago paraseptalis ), there is a cavernous vein network, occasionally with muscle cells, so that the liquid mucus on the nasal mucous membrane, including the dissolved molecules, is pressed out of the epithelial tubes or sucked into the lumen through the expansion or narrowing of vessels can be.

In lower fish, the organ is sensory innervated by its own nerve, the paired terminal nerve , which has already been closely connected to the olfactory nerve ( N. olfactorius ) in the disturbance . It seems to be an evolutionarily old system that serves to find a sexual partner or to fertilize the eggs ( roe ), evolved from the olfactory pits of fish.

In addition to the vomeronasal duct (VND), the Jacobson or vomeronasal organ (VNO) also includes associated glands and special blood vessels (in Feloidea a rete mirabile arteria maxillaris ) - which, as venae vomeronasales , can operate a pumping mechanism by swelling and decongesting - as well as a special one Nerve. The vomeronasal duct is only a millimeter-wide depression in the septal mucosa of the anterior third of the septum, equipped with receptor cells, the axons of which then combine to form the vomeronasalis nerve and thus pull to the olfactory bulb (accessory) of the olfactory brain .

In humans , the organ is said to arise in the fetal stage, but to regress before birth. A vomeronasal nerve can be detected in histological examinations up to the eighth embryonic month, after that no more. Evidence of a vomeronasal duct in adults varies, according to the literature, between 25 and 100 percent. This is attributed to the various conditions and techniques used to detect this anatomical structure: anterior rhinoscopy or endoscopic techniques, swelling of the nasal mucous membrane , misinterpretations and confusion with other types of morphological structures, such as the nasopalatine duct , but also the significantly different size of a duct between individuals vomeronasalis.

In humans, the cartilage strip Cartilago vomeronasalis is a remnant of the vomeronasal organ . It lies behind the anterior nasal spine , the anterior spinous process of the nose, which can be felt when the finger is moved upwards over the philtrum from the point of symmetry of the upper lip . The function of a Jacobson organ in humans is controversial in specialist circles.

In most mammals there is access from the nasal and oral cavities to the Jacobson organ via the incisive duct - a pair of oblique-vertical, rostroventrally oriented connecting ducts between the oral and nasal cavities . It is also known as the Stenson's passage (see Nils Stensen ) of the nasopalatine duct and is an existing passage in many vertebrates. It enables a connection between the hard palate (oral cavity) and the nasal cavity. This allows olfactory stimulants to reach the vomeronasal organ. This duct is generally obliterated in humans, but cases of a persistent nasopalatine duct have been described.

Fine construction and function

The vomeronasal organ (VNO) is a chemoreceptive organ that is embedded in a cartilage capsule and covered by an olfactory epithelium in which the endings of its sensory cells are located. The sensory cells of the vomeronasal organ are like those of the regio olfactoria at the same time nerve cells (primary sensory cells ) and form action potentials in response to excitations.

Schematic representation of the seven membrane-spanning parts of a G-protein-coupled receptor, similar to the described V1R and V2R receptors.

Vomeronasal neurons carry two different main types of receptors in their membrane, which - like the other olfactory receptors - belong to the group of seven-fold membrane -spanning (heptahelical) receptors that are coupled to G proteins ( G protein-coupled receptor ). However, the two families of vomeronasal organ receptors (VR) differ from the usual olfactory sensory neurons (OSN) both in terms of their molecular structure and in terms of their signal transduction components. While V2 receptors (V2R) are coupled to the G protein Gαo in many mammals , V1 receptors (V1R), which respond to pheromones , couple to the G protein Gαi2 . A vomeronasal receptor gene for a V1 receptor that is expressed in the olfactory epithelium could also be detected in the human genome.

In most mammals, the receptor cells of the vomeronasal organ conduct their signals to the accessory olfactory bulb . From there, there are connections to the medial parts of the amygdala , more precisely its corticomedial part (nucleus corticalis), and also to other core areas of the limbic system and the hypothalamus .

This accessory olfactory bulb is an additional, independent neuronal complex, usually posterior - dorsal (back and top) on the actual olfactory bulb . The accessory olfactory bulb has a laminar structure and consists of five layers of nerve cells: (1) the vomeronasal nerve cell layer, (2) the glomerular layer (GL), (3) the mitral cell layer, (4) the layer of the lateral olfactory tract (LOT) and ( 5) the granular cell layer .


Olfactory sensory cells are neurons that take up specific stimuli by means of special olfactory receptors and pass on excitation via their neurites to neurons in the olfactory bulb ( olfactory bulb or accessory olfactory bulb ). Their signals are then passed on to other regions of the brain, where further integration can take place. In contrast to the receptor cells of the olfactory sensory neurons in the olfactory epithelium of the olfactory region , those of the vomeronasal organ are not occupied by cilia . The olfactory receptors (OR) expressed in the olfactory epithelium by the first olfactory sensory neurons (OSN) also differ significantly from the two basic receptor types (V1R and V2R) of the vomeronasal organ in various vertebrates.

Ano-genital control between dogs (Canidae)
A male lion (Panthera leo) marks his territory

The olfactory receptors of the usual olfactory mucous membrane in the roof of the nose are primarily used to perceive odors ( odorants ) from the environment, which can, for example, indicate food sources, dangers (burning smell) or predators , with some odorous substances also being detected by the trigeminal nerve . The vomeronasal organ, on the other hand, is primarily responsible for those odor signals with which animals communicate internally. For example, an individual can use pheromones or other specific odorants to signal their reproductive situation or their hierarchical position to another individual of the same species .

In contrast to olfactory sensory neurons in the usual olfactory epithelium, the olfactory cells of the VNO hardly adapt; in other words, they retain their sensitivity to odorants even when exposed. Furthermore , the approximately 250 different subtypes of olfactory cells of the VNO do not each converge on a neuronal interface, but are distributed over about ten to thirty neuronal complexes of the olfactory glomeruli in the accessory olfactory bulb . A mitral cell can therefore be excited by several types of receptors.

In mammals, the origin of the pheromones lies mostly in the so-called apocrine sweat glands ( Glandulae sudoriferae apocrinae ). These scent glands are mainly found in certain areas of the skin - such as the armpits or armpit hair , the nipples ( glandulae areolares ), the perianal - and the genital region (such as copulins ) and less densely on the face, on the scalp and abdomen . In contrast to eccrine, apocrine sweat glands each open into a hair follicle . Both are innervated by the sympathetic nervous system, but not by the same messenger substances; the eccrine sweat glands have cholinergic receptors and the apocrine sweat glands adrenergic receptors.

The sensory cells of the Jacobson organ specialize in the olfactory perception of certain substances, in mammals especially on pheromones . Metabolites of sex hormones probably also act as pheromones, such as 16- androsterone or its alcoholic derivative androsterol or its ketone androstenone , which can also be produced by microbial reactions. Via such degradation products, sex hormones could in turn have an influence on different hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadic regulated processes via the surrounding medium.

Various studies suggest an interaction between the respective body odor , one's own MHC complex and genetic variations in the immune system ( genetic matching ) for the perception of odors in connection with the choice of partner .

Some animals have developed special movement patterns for particularly intense odor perception via the vomeronasal organ. In many mammals the flehmen can be observed. Tonguing is the stretching of the (ambivalent) tongue in snakes and many lizards , which thereby absorb odorous substances and present them to this organ in a different way.

The vertebrate pheromones can be divided into different classes depending on the effect they develop on the Jacobson organ, such as

  • Sex attractants,
  • Aggregation pheromones,
  • Dispersion pheromones,
  • Alarm pheromones,
  • Trace pheromones,
  • Territorial marker pheromones,
  • Rut-stimulating pheromones,
  • Crate identifiers.

Meaning using the example of the house mouse

In tests on laboratory mice ( Mus musculus ), the following characteristic reactions can be demonstrated with regard to the effects of pheromones :

  • Lee Boot Effect: The menstrual cycles of female mice that were kept in the absence of males are slowed down and finally canceled out completely.
  • Whitten effect: the menstrual cycles of the female mice are restarted and synchronized when the female animals are then kept with male mice.
  • Vandenbergh effect: Female animals show sexual maturity earlier if they live together with male animals.
  • Bruce Effect: If a pregnant mouse is kept with a mouse ready to mate, the pregnancy can be interrupted.

These interactions are caused by a number of volatile substances found in the body fluids of mice, particularly mouse urine. Male mice or rodents in general need a functioning vomeronasal organ (VNO) in order to bring efficient courtship behavior towards a female animal, but also to face competitors aggressively. In rodent females, in turn, the vomeronasal organ (VNO) promotes the rut and the effects described above in the presence of the male .


In 1703, Frederik Ruysch discovered the vomeronasalis duct on a wounded soldier while treating his facial injury . The Danish anatomist Ludwig Levin Jacobson first described this anatomical structure in 1811. Georges Cuvier also published a paper on this organ almost at the same time. It should be mentioned that Ludwig Levin Jacobson was a student of Cuvier. In 1877 Albert von Kölliker from Würzburg published a monograph entitled Ueber die Jacobsons'schen organs of humans . Von Kölliker was the first to try to prove the presence of the vomeronasal organ in humans, and he was able to provide this evidence histologically in human embryos as well as in adult individuals.

The term pheromone was introduced in 1950 for a secreted substance that causes a specific response via the olfactory system in another animal.


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Web links

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