Barabas, A. J., Aryal, U. K., Gaskill, B. N. 2019. Proteome characterization of used nesting material and potential protein sources from group housed male mice, Mus musculus. Scientific Reports 9, 17524.
Laboratory mice (Mus musculus) communicate a variety of social messages through olfactory cues and it is often speculated that these cues are preserved in nesting material. Based on these speculations, a growing number of husbandry recommendations support preserving used nests at cage cleaning to maintain familiar odors in the new cage. However, the content of used nesting material has never been chemically analyzed. Here we present the first comprehensive proteome profile of used nesting material. Nests from cages of group housed male mice contain a variety of proteins that primarily originate from saliva, plantar sweat, and urine sources. Most notably, a large proportion of proteins found in used nesting material belong to major urinary protein (“MUP”) and odorant binding protein (“OBP”) families. Both protein families send messages about individual identity and bind volatile compounds that further contribute to identity cues. Overall, this data supports current recommendations to preserve used nesting material at cage cleaning to maintain odor familiarity.