Major urinary protein (Mup) gene family deletion drives sex-specific alterations in the house-mouse gut microbiota

Madalena V.F. Real, Melanie S. Colvin, Michael J. Sheehan, Andrew H. Moeller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The gut microbiota is shaped by host metabolism. In house mice (Mus musculus), major urinary protein (MUP) pheromone production represents a considerable energy investment, particularly in sexually mature males. Deletion of the Mup gene family shifts mouse metabolism toward an anabolic state, marked by lipogenesis, lipid accumulation, and body mass increases. Given the metabolic implications of MUPs, they may also influence the gut microbiota. Here, we investigated the effect of a deletion of the Mup gene family on the gut microbiota of sexually mature mice. Shotgun metagenomics revealed distinct taxonomic and functional profiles between wild-type and knockout males but not females. Deletion of the Mup gene cluster significantly reduced diversity in microbial families and functions in male mice. Additionally, a species of Ruminococcaceae and several microbial functions, such as transporters involved in vitamin B5 acquisition, were significantly depleted in the microbiota of Mup knockout males. Altogether, these results show that MUPs significantly affect the gut microbiota of house mouse in a sex-specific manner. IMPORTANCE The community of microorganisms that inhabits the gastrointestinal tract can have profound effects on host phenotypes. The gut microbiota is in turn shaped by host genes, including those involved with host metabolism. In adult male house mice, expression of the major urinary protein (Mup) gene cluster represents a substantial energy investment, and deletion of the Mup gene family leads to fat accumulation and weight gain in males. We show that deleting Mup genes also alters the gut microbiota of male, but not female, mice in terms of both taxonomic and functional compositions. Male mice without Mup genes harbored fewer gut bacterial families and reduced abundance of a species of Ruminococcaceae, a family that has been previously shown to reduce obesity risk. Studying the impact of the Mup gene family on the gut microbiota has the potential to reveal the ways in which these genes affect host phenotypes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalMicrobiology spectrum
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2024
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Ecology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology
  • Infectious Diseases


  • clusters of orthologous groups (COGs)
  • female
  • gut microbiome
  • gut microbiota
  • knockout
  • lipid metabolism
  • major urinary proteins
  • male
  • metagenomics
  • mice
  • sexual dimorphism
  • taxonomy


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