The MUPs (major urinary proteins) of the house mouse, Mus domesticus, are lipocalins that bind and slowly release male-specific pheromones in deposited scent marks. However, females also express these proteins, consistent with a second role in encoding individual signatures in scent marks. We have purified and characterized an atypical MUP from the urine of male C57BL/6J inbred mice, which is responsible for the binding of most of the male pheromone, 2-sec-butyl-4,5-dihydrothiazole, and which is also responsible for the slow release of this pheromone from scent marks. This protein is absent from the urine of female mice of the same strain. The protein has been characterized by MS, leading to unequivocal identification as a previously uncharacterized gene product, providing compelling evidence for the expression of this gene in liver and manifestation in urine. These properties contrast strongly with those of the other MUPs in the same urine sample, and suggest that the requirement to manifest a male-specific pheromone has been met by evolution of a cognate protein specifically adapted to the binding and release of this ligand. This atypical MUP is also present in a random sample of wild-caught male mice, confirming that this protein is not specific to the inbred mouse strain but is present in natural populations also.

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