Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Men's preferences for women's body odours are not associated with human leucocyte antigen

Men's preferences for women's body odours are not associated with human leucocyte antigen. Fabian Probst et al. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, October 11 2017, Volume 284, issue 1864.

Abstract: Body odours reportedly portray information about an individual's genotype at the major histocompatibility complex (MHC, called human leucocyte antigen, HLA, in humans). While there is strong experimental support for MHC-associated mating behaviour in animals, the situation in humans is more complex. A lot of effort has been spent on testing HLA-associated odour preferences of women. To date, only very few studies have looked at HLA-linked olfactory preferences in men and these studies have revealed inconsistent results. Here, we investigate men's HLA-associated preferences for women's body odours. Importantly, and in contrast to previous studies, these odours were gathered at peak fertility (i.e. just before ovulation) when any HLA-associated odour preferences should be strongest. We scrutinized whether men's preference for women's body odours is influenced by (i) the number of shared HLA alleles between men and women, (ii) HLA heterozygosity, and (iii) the frequency of rare HLA alleles. We found that men could readily differentiate between odours they found attractive and odours they found less attractive, but that these preferences were not associated with HLA. Specifically, men did not prefer odours from women who are HLA dissimilar, HLA heterozygous, or who have rare HLA alleles. Together, these findings suggest that HLA has no effect on men's odour preferences.

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