Center for Integrative Genomics, Faculty of Biology & Medicine, Bâtiment Le Génopode, University of Lausanne, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland.
Sex pheromones provide an important means of communication to unite individuals for successful reproduction. Although sex pheromones are highly diverse across animals, these signals fulfil common fundamental roles in enabling identification of a mating partner of the opposite sex, the appropriate species and of optimal fecundity. In this review, we synthesize both classic and recent investigations on sex pheromones in a range of species, spanning nematode worms, insects and mammals. These studies reveal comparable strategies in how these chemical signals are produced, detected and processed in the brain to regulate sexual behaviours. Elucidation of sex pheromone communication mechanisms both defines outstanding models to understand the molecular and neuronal basis of chemosensory behaviours, and reveals how similar evolutionary selection pressures yield convergent solutions in distinct animal nervous systems. EMBO reports advance online publication 13 September 2013; doi:10.1038/embor.2013.140.